Gulfport refines its hopes for 49th Street
By ANGEL BEDINGHAUS ZENT
The Gulfport Economic Development Advisory Committee has narrowed down the architectural style for the city's proposed new building along 49th Street to Mediterranean or traditional, but members questioned the current plans for its use. At Monday night's workshop, committee members reviewed plans for the 49th Street streetscape, the Tangerine Greenway and the facility the city will build on the Bay Machine property it purchased a few years ago. Members had a few questions and comments on the blueprints presented for all three redevelopment areas, but the floor plan for the new building stimulated the most.
Ernie Stone, committee vice chairman, wanted to know what happened to the reception area where visitors could pick up information about the city. Chairman Dave O'Brien wondered if the building should be constructed for use as a storm shelter.
"I thought the original plan was for this to be a ... police substation slash rec hall for kids," said committee member and Gabber co-publisher Ken Reichart.
Project architect Emmett Walsh of Architectural Concepts said a full substation with booking and other amenities "didn't make sense here because we already have very good facilities not far away. But what was gleaned out of a police substation was a police presence. That much we have."
As the project moved forward, some of the other ideas may have dropped by the wayside, Walsh said.
The main part of the proposed Mediterranean-style building has a 35- by 50-foot hall with divider wall and kitchenette that makes it possible to use the building for meeting space or rent it out for events such as wedding receptions.
Toward the front of the building, along 49th Street, office space is set aside for police use.
Walsh had not updated the rendering since an August public workshop, so he used a red marker to show how changes requested could be added, including a police cruiser parking space and exterior door on the 49th Street side of the building. He said signs and maybe a memorial to police and firefighters near the flag also would help establish that police presence.
Until now, provisions for youth recreation had not been seriously considered.
Susanne Hicks, Gulfport's principal planner, said: "As far as I know, it was one of the suggested uses. I do not know that it was ever mandated (by the City Council)."
"I feel that it definitely needs to be in there because there are so many kids," said committee member Melissa Duncan. Duncan, who lives along the Tangerine Greenway, also said having the kids and police in one spot would be a good way for them to get to know each other.
With the Catherine Hickman Theater, senior center and Casino, some members thought Gulfport had plenty of event halls available. Hicks said the lack of parking at the site actually would prohibit some events.
Reichart suggested redesigning the space so it could be used for recreation and civic meetings.
"Let's roll with that a little bit," said Walsh. "What type of indoor functions do you see?"
Basketball hoops, a study hall, a computer lab, a pool table and Ping-Pong were some of the ideas the committee suggested.
Walsh said he would discuss the ideas with the city staff and return to the draft board for a second building design, which would be traditional.
A Mediterranean design would complement other buildings throughout the city, Walsh said, such as the new Gulfport Elementary School, Stetson University and the townhouses under construction along Gulfport Boulevard.
A traditional style would reflect buildings found in older downtown areas, such as those with flat storefronts, big windows and maybe some brick work, Hicks said. Since the style of the city facility probably will set the tone for the rest of the corridor, a traditional style may be easier for business owners to copy.
The area would then depend on the new streetscape to bring it together, with decorative lighting and amenities, landscaping and colors.
Another meeting to discuss the designs will be held in about three weeks.
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