Cruisin' the Coast

Rave reviews for Fishbone Alley as Cruisin’ kicks off

Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes, center, and other city officials cheer after cutting the ribbon on Fishbone Alley in downtown Gulfport, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2016.
Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes, center, and other city officials cheer after cutting the ribbon on Fishbone Alley in downtown Gulfport, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2016. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

Locals and tourists alike raved about Fishbone Alley as the artsy, funky pedestrian walkway opened Sunday in the downtown Gulfport entertainment district.

“I think it’s one of the best things to happen in Gulfport in many years,” said local resident Stanley Hastings. “It’s beautiful and it’s a good thing for locals, for tourists and commerce. I’ll be back.”

The whimsical alley, once an eyesore between 13th and 14th Streets, opened Sunday in conjunction with Cruisin’ the View, part of Cruisin’ The Coast’s first day.

Gulfport’s entertainment district now features go-cups, which allow people to stroll from venue to venue with an alcoholic beverage.

The back doors of restaurants and bars are now front doors for people who meander through Fishbone Alley. Some of the venues have small patios in the alley. Other seating areas are available throughout the area.

Fishbone Alley held its grand opening Sunday afternoon.

‘Energizing downtown’

“It is energizing downtown Gulfport,” said Scott Levanway of Gulfport as he walked through the alley.

“I got a drink just because I could,” he said.

The alley has reclaimed brick pavers circa 1906 and whimsical artwork, including redfish and a guitar-playing mermaid. Three strands of small lights zigzag above, strung from upper floors of the buildings, for a festive nighttime view.

“I feel like I’m in the Bahamas,” said Leo Weixel of Amite, Louisiana. “This is just so nice.”

Seven restaurants and bars flank one side of the alley.

Gulfport artist Mallory Hopkins was putting some finishing touches on a large butterfly she painted to cover a company’s box for telephone and fiber optic service. She said she may do more painting to brighten up the area or help cover utility boxes and such.

Cindy and Brian Myers of Hattiesburg came to Gulfport for View the Cruise and wandered into Fishbone Alley.

“It’s a fine place,” Brian Myers said. “We didn’t know about the alley but it was a nice surprise.”

A large, brightly painted “Dumpster corral” hides from view eight large trash cans the businesses use.

David Parker, the city’s community development director, is the one behind the idea for Fishbone Alley.

He was almost at a loss over the turnout and public response but said he is pleased.

Many worked to make it happen

“The big story about Fishbone Alley,” Parker said, “is all the people and businesses that worked together to make this happen, and that includes efforts to change how the businesses accept deliveries and how it affects other businesses.”

Waste Pro garbage trucks park at the alley’s edge and workers take eight large trash cans out from the “Dumpster corral,” said Binky Jermmott.

“Our workers are excited about doing their part,” Jermott said. “They roll the trash cans out to the truck, dump the trash and roll the cans back and put them in their corrals.”

The Knight Foundation, which makes investments “to re-invigorate” communities, gave $27,000 toward the alley’s creation, said Rodger Wilder of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation. The money was well-spent, Wilder said.

The city spent about $250,000 to build the alley. The money came from post-Katrina streetscape money.

The alley is a canyon alley, which means it has no parking areas or empty lots. The alley between 13th and 14th Streets is between 26th and 27 Avenues.

You can’t miss it. On the north side, look for a large sign with a six-foot skeletal redfish that’s painted blue. On the south side, look for lamp posts decorated with four-foot redfish that are painted red.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews

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