An alley once littered with Dumpsters will make its debut as a brick-paved and art-filled downtown walkway Oct. 2, the same day the city hosts View the Cruise, part of the opening festivities for Cruisin’ The Coast.
“There will be a huge party going on,” said Gulfport Economic Development Director David Parker, who had the idea for a pedestrian alley modeled after the popular Printer’s Alley in Nashville.
Fishbone Alley has been under construction since the first of the year. The work has been completed within the city’s $250,000 budget. Now, Parker and Laurie Toups, executive director of Main Street Gulfport, are watching the fun part — finishing touches.
This week, an overhead archway was added at the alley’s north end that says “Fishbone Alley” in red lettering on an aluminum background. FishBone Design in Key West created it.
A 6-foot skeletal redfish, which happens to be painted blue, will hang below the sign. The south entrance will be accented with a lamppost on each side decorated with redfish that are 4 feet long and red.
Artists have painted wooden screens that hide transformers and a Dumpster corral. A dozen or so more pieces of art will be added. City landscaper Gus Wesson is overseeing installation of plants and vertical landscaping.
“We’re keeping it funky,” Parker said.
He said the artwork and plants will always be changing.
Toups said Knight Foundation grants of $17,000 are covering the cost of the alley signs and art supplies.
Gulfport artists who happen to work for the city — firefighter Robert Waldrop and public works employee Ryan Merrill — painted alley screens. Artist Bobbye Carraway and the Galleria of Fine Art painted architectural scenes from the city on one screen.
A number of restaurants open onto the alley, which runs between 26th and 27th avenues. Now that the state has legalized go cups, residents and tourists will be able to stroll the alley with drinks.
As the alley becomes an a new attraction, New Orleans developer Vincent Marcello is adding office space on the second floor and luxury apartments on the third and fourth floors of the old Cadillac Building on 27th Avenue. The design by Harry Baker Smith Architects II in New Orleans features a rooftop terrace.
Pass Christian contractor Mike Fletcher said the pigeons have moved on and interiors have been gutted. He sees the alley as a selling point for future tenants.
“You’re not just walking out into an alley of trash cans and cats,” Fletcher said. “What a good idea for Gulfport to have that.”