According to Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson, the city’s popularity in St. Petersburg has the potential to affect Gulfport’s “character.”
The Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), including Henderson and the four councilmembers, met immediately after the Tuesday, July 16 regular council meeting to discuss parking issues and building height requirements among other things.
The discussion at hand? Keeping Gulfport, “Gulfport.”
Currently, the building height requirements within city limits is 50 feet. The CRA considered the possibility of pushing the conditions down to 40 feet, in an effort to keep the downtown area aesthetics and maintain parking.
As mentioned at previous council meetings, the growth of Gulfport versus the physical size of the downtown area has created some parking concerns. Keeping businesses from skyrocketing height-wise is one way that council considered combating this.
“I don’t know if we’re going to save the charm of Gulfport by going from 50 feet to 40 feet,” said Councilmember Daniel Liedtke. “I’d prefer to leave the height requirements where they are, and find another way to fix the parking problem.”
Not everyone on council felt the same.
“Well, I wanted to start somewhere,” Henderson said when commenting on the potential of shaving down height conditions.
Another heated topic was the possibility of limiting buildings to single-use rather than mixed-use. This would mean that structures could not house several different types of businesses within their walls. Residential buildings, restaurants and traditional shops would be separate entities.
“They don’t want to do mixed-use, they want to do single-use and residential buildings,” said Community Development Director Fred Metcalf.
When the meeting could not come to a consensus, it was determined that another CRA meeting would be scheduled sometime this October.
“We want to move on this, but we don’t want to be too rash,” City Manager Jim O’Reilly said.
With the scope of Gulfport-based events growing comes pushback from residents who don’t appreciate the closed roads and heavy traffic.
“We’ve been doing so much to bring that business-inclined climate here,” Henderson said. “Now I’m feeling like we need to give Gulfport back to the people that live here.”
According to O’Reilly, the one-day events in Gulfport are easily contained. It’s the two- and three-day festivities that are becoming a nuisance to local traffic.
“It’s manageable, and they start with a 5 or 6 a.m. set-up, and when folks wake up in the morning it’s like we’ve never been there,” O’Reilly said. “It’s the two-day we have concerns about.”
The city manager went on to suggest either a cut-off for two-day events and occasions that bring more that 2,000 people to Gulfport’s downtown, with exceptions for vendors that come to council and ask for a variance.
“You could vote on them on a case-by-case basis,” O’Reilly said to council.
Again, no official decisions were made.
“We’re getting popular, and that’s why we’re even having this discussion,” said Henderson.
Coffee Shop’s Outdoor Seating Gets a Green Light
At least one issue was decided at the CRA meeting: Gulfport’s newest coffee shop, Gulfperk, applied for patio seating and the request was approved by council.
The café, located on 3107 Beach Boulevard South, will feature beer and wine along with caffeinated favorites.
“I love the fact that you’re doing all the outdoor seating,” Henderson said to the owners.