Months After Katrina Downtown Gulfport Mostly Empty Buildings
The streets are clean and the traffic is frequently heavy. At first glance, downtown Gulfport looks like the center of a thriving community. But looks are deceiving. Eight months after Hurricane Katrina, downtown Gulfport, which is just off the beach and Highway 90, is a center of mostly empty buildings. A ghost town with a crowd, as most of the traffic is just passing through, people going somewhere else.
All of the blocks that are south of the CSX railroad tracks are filled with damaged and empty buildings. Katrina's flood waters are blamed but downtown Gulfport has long struggled since most of the business went north to be near the Interstate highway.
City Hall and the government buildings are also damaged. Most of the city's services are being handled out of trailers. The county's main library is only a shell of a building and the city's tallest buildings, the Markham and Hancock Bank, are still undergoing repairs.
It was only this past week that the city's mayor, Brent Warr, appointed the needed members to the one of key zoning committees so that the city could again hear zoning and building appeals. The city's Director of Economic Development also recently resigned over differences with the mayor. To many people, it looks as if redevelopment and for that matter, progress, has ground to a halt in the state's second largest city.
There are some businesses open and a few others under repair. But the work and progress is mostly superficial. The shell of the First Baptist Church perhaps speaks the most for the condition of the city. The congregation has decided not to replace the church and relocate.
The following is a photo story of what is there.