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Developers summit attracts crowd

The Centennial Plaza Developer's Summit had attracted 33 participants and counting by Friday afternoon.

It runs Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday, with corporate sponsors providing funding and meals.

Centennial Plaza is the new name of the old VA property on U.S. 90. The mission-style buildings, aligned in a historically significant campus-style configuration, have been spruced up with new windows, doors and Italian roofing tiles.

The city is hoping developers will see the potential in the 92-acre property, especially about 40 acres south of the tracks that overlook the Mississippi Sound. Companies from Oxford, New Orleans, Gulfport, Gulf Shores, Kentucky and other locations are planning to participate.

The Gulfport Redevelopment Commission was formed to sign a long-term lease on the property, something the City Council is not authorized to do.

The summit is designed to produce the best possible proposal for development.

Carole Lynne Meadows, who chairs GRC, also co-founded one of the Coast's most unique attractions, the nearby Lynne Meadows Discovery Center. It is a premiere destination for youngsters who want to play and learn.

Meadows is equally excited about Centennial Plaza. She calls it a "must-see" property that could be transformed into a resort destination with a hotel and spa, offices, shops, restaurants and apartments above commercial space.

Developers who can't attend the summit can send in request for proposals posted on the Centennial Plaza website.

 "If the right people can catch the right vision and they can find the financing to do it, it could be something out of this world," Meadows said. "Fabulous, just fabulous. Once they get here and see those oak trees and see that view, the sky's the limit on what we can do with that property. The sky's limit.

"We'll keep our fingers crossed. If people will see the possibilities, we can make it happen, I hope in my lifetime."

Mayor George Schloegel said the site's economic development potential is demonstrated by Gov. Haley Barbour's willingness to kick off the event. The city held a summit on the site after Katrina, but rejected the proposals that resulted.

Schloegel, a savvy businessman, said he believes the time might be right now, with the property spruced up and the economy improving.