Gulf of Mexico
Mississippi Business Journal

Mississippi Aquarium spurs development in downtown Gulfport

The $93 million Mississippi Aquarium is coming out of the ground on the East Beach service road in Gulfport, on track to open late this year or by early 2020.

The attraction is expected to draw as many as 500,000 visitors a year and generate $340 million in annual revenue. It’s also gotten the attention of  developers, and prompted other projects in the coastal city’s packed downtown.

There’s the transformation of the historic Markham Building, shuttered for years, into a luxury 124-room Hyatt Place. Down the beach a bit at the sprawling Centennial Plaza, once a VA facility and long dormant,  a 150-room Holiday Inn Resort, a large restaurant, a water park and even a wedding venue are among the $145 million makeover. New office buildings and a Patio 44 restaurant are among smaller but significant additions to downtown.

Gulfport spokesman Chris Vignes said the construction activity at the aquarium and Centennial Plaza is moving “at an impressive pace” and the action is generating even more interest. “Developers from outside markets are coming in daily. They want to be a part of it because of the attention we’re getting,” he said.

Vignes said some 1,200 to 1,300 people work in downtown Gulfport, which he calls the business hub of the Coast, with various banks, law offices, and the nearby State Port and casino resorts all open there.

Brian P. Bolis, senior vice president of NAI Sawyer commercial real estate brokerage located in downtown Gulfport, said, “There’s no question there has been some activity related” to the aquarium construction. A prime example is the long awaited Markham rehab finally getting under way. The aquarium and the hotel should be completed and open around the same time.

Patio 44, a seafood and steak restaurant, recently opened its third south Mississippi location on property that was home to First Presbyterian Church before Katrina. A new office building was constructed across from St. Peter’s Church.

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