The Roy Anderson Corp. will build the Mississippi Aquarium for $52.1 million.
The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved Anderson as the contractor and authorized the Gulfport Redevelopment Commission to enter a construction contract with the company, which has built several Coast casinos.
“This is a momentous occasion for the city,” Mayor Billy Hewes said after the vote. “It’s a generational decision you have just made.”
Anderson submitted the low bid for the job, about the same amount as the budgeted construction price.
The GRC is expected to vote on the contract Thursday. GRC is overseeing the project and owns aquarium acreage the city assembled downtown for around $14 million.
Aquarium Director David Kimmel said he expects construction to begin after the first of the year.
“This is a really, really good day,” Kimmel said. “The aquarium is really that linchpin project that puts everything in motion. This is a legacy project in every sense of the word.”
The contract includes construction of aquarium buildings, interior and outdoor exhibits, and entry fountains that feature sails 65 feet tall.
The city is banking on the aquarium as a regional tourist attraction. Virginia attorney Robert Lubin plans to turn the derelict Markham building, formerly a hotel, into a Hyatt Place that will serve the aquarium next door.
Lubin also is trying to line up financing and currently has the rights through a lease with GRC to develop a casino across U.S. 90 on the west side of Gulfport’s harbor.
And Lubin is working through GRC to finance and build a Holiday Inn Resort on the old Veterans Affairs property on U.S. 90 a few miles east of the harbor.