Coast residents asked to critique Gulfport designs

Published 4:12 pm Wednesday, March 19, 2008

International newspapers have called Andres Duany the world’s most influential architect.

He is regarded as the founder of New Urbanism.

Even with that impressive resume, Gulfport politicians want local residents to view and critique Duany’s ideas before starting construction.

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The City Council was adamant about holding an additional public hearing on the designs before deciding whether to approve them and move forward.

Only a few council members showed up for Monday’s hearings.

Duany held a design conference earlier this year to create development plans for several city-owned properties, including the Veterans Affairs property, the harbor and downtown.

A small crowd voiced few concerns Monday about the harbor plan, which calls for three-story retail and residential buildings along the western edge of the harbor.

In downtown, Duany’s firm envisions a three-story performing arts center near the railroad tracks on 25th Avenue. Some residents wondered about noise from passing trains.

Others in the crowd said there are not many places in Gulfport where you can escape the sound of train whistles, and some pointed to the Saenger Theater in Biloxi, which also is near the railroad tracks.

Some residents have said they didn’t have an opportunity to voice their concerns during the design conference.

However, all of the 10-day conference was open to the public, save for the final day.

The conference ended with a lengthy public presentation in front of a large crowd at Gulf Coast Community College, but the City Council wanted to schedule this week’s hearings before endorsing Duany’s designs.

The city held two separate meetings Monday with residents to discuss Duany’s plans for the harbor and downtown, and for the VA property and Ken Combs pier.

Another public meeting was scheduled Tuesday night at City Hall to review plans for the Gulfport Sportsplex.