GULFPORT -- New Orleans developer Vincent Marcello is sold on Gulfport as a great place to invest, so much so that he is looking to add to his building inventory. He's already bought the old Cadillac Building on 27th Avenue downtown.
He plans luxury apartments on its third and fourth floors. Mosaic Restaurant & Bar is on the first floor of the building constructed at the turn of the 20th century; he said offices will go on the second floor.
"For developers," he said, "the Gulf Coast is prime property for investment."
Marcello has been developing property for 30 years in the French Quarter and other places. Historic-preservation projects are his specialty, he said.
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He already has dibs on one of the apartments in the Cadillac Building.
"I definitely want to have a place to stay when I come to Gulfport," he said. "I'm looking for more investments in Gulfport." He said many developers are unaware of all the activity in Gulfport -- a showcase harbor, a face-lift that restored downtown's historical feel and Fishbone Alley, a walkway about to be developed behind his building and others.
"I couldn't find anything in New Orleans in the French Quarter," he said. "The prices are sky high. The market is exploding in New Orleans."
Laurie Toups worked for Marcello Properties, his company, before she became executive director of the Main Street Association in Gulfport.
He said Toups told him, "You need to come see what's going on in Gulfport." He said, "With the alley and the things that are going on, it was perfect timing."
He bought the Cadillac Building in January. Toups has been pushing for more downtown apartments, which will fuel the growing number of restaurants and, she hopes, attract more retail shops downtown.
She said downtown has about six upper-floor apartments, but she believes demand would support many more. She has a waiting list of eager tenants, from 25 years old to retirement age.
Marcello said his architect is about finished with plans for eight apartments in the Cadillac Building: two two-bedroom units and six one-bedroom apartments. He said the apartments will be from 800 to 1,500 square feet. He said he'll need to do more market research before rental prices are set.
The apartments will have granite counter tops, wood floors, stainless appliances, deep crown molding and 12-foot ceilings. He's thinking mahogany floors would be nice in some apartments, teak in others. A rooftop garden is planned. He expects construction to start in January and be finished in about a year.
"It's not a cookie-cutter kind of thing," he said. "I kind of design as I go and make each apartment unique."