Centennial Plaza Work Waiting on Historic Tax Credits

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Christmas is right around the corner and the number one thing on the city of Gulfport’s wish list is historic tax credits from the state Legislature. As News 25’s Katarina Luketich explains, the credits are needed for work on Centennial Plaza to begin.
The buildings are abandoned now but the plans to refurbish Centennial Plaza are big, a hotel resort, restaurants, shops, a pier on the beach and more. However, right now the only thing set in stone is a Holiday Inn. Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes said, “Somebody has to be first and we have a commitment for a hotel here to come in, an identified flag, is key.”
While developers have been ready to put a shovel in the ground for over a year now, construction is at a standstill until historic tax credits from the state come through. “We had actually hoped we’d be out of the ground and moving but the developers tell us that’s really the last key to making this thing work,” said Mayor Hewes.
Over the years, the state has reached its $60 million cap for awarding tax credits on rebuilding historic landmarks. The Legislature was expected to raise the cap last year but the measure did not pass the state Senate. City officials are hoping this upcoming session will be different and the credits will come through so that work on development can begin. State Senator Sean Tindell said, “I think it’s just one of those things that got caught up in the crossroads last session. Now that we know there are specific projects on board, ready to go, I think we’ll be able to get the money to help push those projects across the finish line.”
Mayor Hewes tells New 25 this is good news for the city of Gulfport. “The timing of it is really critical too because in 2017, the state is going to be celebrating its bicentennial and we intended for that to be one of the sites for that celebration.”
Centennial Plaza was built as a place to celebrate the state’s 100th birthday but the celebration never happened because of WWI. City officials are hoping if the tax credits come through and hotel developers can begin work, it will spark enough development to have Centennial Plaza be the perfect spot to celebrate the state’s bicentennial.