“The one thing that we heard over and over as we talked to local people was, ‘We want to be the real Ocean Springs, not the Disney Ocean Springs,” Victor Dover of Dover, Kohl and Partners, one of the team leaders at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Rebuilding Charrette, explained to the town leaders who gathered around to hear of their plans for Ocean Springs. Ocean Springs (population 17,225) is an artist’s town with a laid back tree-lined downtown, a commercial fishing harbor and a growing commercial strip on the north side of town. They voted not to allow casino gambling years ago when both Biloxi and Gulfport voted to accept it.
The team’s concept focused upon rebuilding the historical downtown commercially and in a mixed use manner; turning the fishing harbor into a more resident friendly place, developing the western approach into town from Biloxi into a ferry terminal and gateway to the town, and using the Wal-Mart on the northeast edge of town as the base for a new walkable Town Center.
Some shortcomings/opportunities that they saw in the town were only one restaurant in town that had a view of water, the bow-tie of bridges and overpasses caused by Hwy 90 and the CSX RR tracks crossing each other on the west edge of town, a 100 acre strategically located wooded piece of land owned by a lady out of NYC (need to start a dialog), and a need for a form based planning code.
The team developed some wonderful preliminary building plans, laid out a clear vision for the town and opened the eyes of what might be possible in Ocean Springs. I hope that they get implemented.