Harrison County

Familiar shopping center returning with new look to Gulfport beach


GULFPORT -- The landmark shopping center that housed Outback Steakhouse, Warr's Mens Clothing and other popular businesses will be returning to the corner of U.S. 90 and Tegarden Road -- but with a totally different look.

The Warr family bought land adjacent to the original lot, expanding from 2 to almost 5 acres. The shopping center's architecture will be patterned after Ernest Hemingway's two-story home in Key West, with more of a Mississippi Coast feel: Multi-story buildings with stucco walls, wraparound patios and tall windows flanked by shutters. The original Mississippi City Shopping Center was a one-story strip of businesses.

Former Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr said plans call for a full-service, name-brand hotel in one building and restaurants, retail, offices and top-floor apartments in others. The center will have entrances off the frontage road, 16th Street, and Tegarden.

Buildings are designed with two full stories and smaller third floors. Warr pictures the floors stacked like a wedding cake, with the first floor extending out further. As mayor, he presided over downtown revitalization during a four-year tenure that began just two months before Ka

trina. When it comes to construction, he has exacting standards and an eye for detail.

Work has already started on a retaining wall beside the highway. It hasn't gone unnoticed.

"I've had people call every day," said Warr, who owned the clothing store in the shopping center. "They stop, they come by, they blow their horns," he said. "It's fantastic. It really feels great, I'll tell you."

The most frequent question Warr gets is whether the buildings will be elevated. The answer is no. The property's elevation is about 17 feet above sea level, which wasn't high enough to withstand Katrina's surge but is higher than other beach properties.

Warr said he is in talks with hotel companies and potential tenants. Some of the old tenants, he said, might return. He said construction will begin only after tenants are signed on, and buildings will be added as demand warrants.

He is unsure if Warr's will return. He said the whole family has been involved with the development, including parents Gene and Kay Warr, wife Laura and children Emma, 20, and Noah, 16.

Before the hurricane, Laura Warr managed The Village Drummer women's clothing store owned by Kay Warr. Gene Warr owned the original men's clothing store at Edgewater Mall.

Tenants will have a say in the build-out, but the Warr's architect will be involved, too. Warr said he wants the complex to have a consistent look.

Scanning the beach and Mississippi Sound across the highway, he said, "Just think how great it would be to have your business, your office above it and your apartment above that -- with this view."