Harrison County

Gulfport VA property, Cruise Central, awaits financing for development

JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALDCruisin' The Coast workers set up Cruise Central at Centennial Plaza in Gulfport on Friday.
JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALDCruisin' The Coast workers set up Cruise Central at Centennial Plaza in Gulfport on Friday. SUN HERALD

GULFPORT -- The old Veterans Affairs property, known as Centennial Plaza, has a high profile as Cruise Central during Cruisin' The Coast, but visitors will notice buildings on the campus remain vacant even though development plans were announced more than a year ago.

Louisiana developer Stewart Juneau in August 2014 announced plans for an initial investment of $40 million at Centennial Plaza, 57 acres shaded by Live oaks and featuring 10 historic buildings with Italian tile roofs and wooden windows. Plans were for a Holiday Inn Resort with lazy river, festival grounds and other amenities.

But financing hinged partially on state tax credits for redevelopment of historic properties. The Legislature adjourned in the spring without replenishing the credits, which projects around the state are depending on.

The Legislature is not set to convene again until January.

Steve Hendrix, attorney for the property owner, the Gulfport Redevelopment Commission, said Holiday Inn Resort remains committed to the project.

The federal government spent $39 million renovating building exteriors on the property, the former home of a veterans medical center, before deeding it to the city after Hurricane Katrina. The property was originally developed in 1917 for Mississippi's centennial celebration, but World Ward I derailed those plans.

Juneau said when he announced development plans that historic buildings on the property would crumble to the ground without national and state tax-credit financing.

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