Gulfport city officials want to find a way to keep large buildings from swallowing Gulfport’s waterfront district, and met twice publicly to discuss the future of the city’s waterfront district.
During the last two Community Redevelopment Agency meetings, on October 20 and December 15, Gulfport Community Development Director Fred Metcalf and Forward Pinellas representative Linda Fisher discussed the future of the waterfront district – the Waterfront Building Form project.
Fisher’s presentation focused on parking issues and building height. The city made no changes to existing code; rather, city manager Jim O’Reilly stressed, staff and council would like to find ways to entice waterfront redevelopment district property owners to redevelop in ways that maintain downtown’s character.
“We’re not looking to take away anyone’s property rights,” O’Reilly said before Fisher’s presentation. “We’re trying to shorten the process if you stay in a much smaller envelope.”
Both Metcalf and Fisher emphasized maintaining Gulfport’s character, but admitted that buildings don’t last forever and that, due to safety and other concerns, must get rehabbed or replaced. When that happens, the city wants to find a way to convince property owners to replace older buildings with ones that don’t change the look of downtown.
That doesn’t mean no three-story buildings; one of the photos Fisher presented showed a three story building with the upper two floors stepped back from the street: The Historic Peninsula Inn. That’s the sort of architecture Gulfport officials would like to see more of downtown.
The city could offer incentives if property owners steered clear of the proverbial “McMansion,” O’Reilly said. Those incentives could include waiving parking requirements. Current parking requirements continue to frustrate downtown businesses and don’t account for trends that draw people who travel via rideshare, bike or foot. Nevertheless, parking grows scarce during Gulfport Tuesday Market and other special events. Fisher talked about parking challenges in popular cities with historic character.
Gulfport’s first few generations built the city for the convenience of pedestrians, not cars, and Fisher said this historic land-use pattern makes Gulfport so attractive, with buildings closer to the sidewalk.
“This is due to the historic land-use pattern; these places were built before cars were prevalent,” Fisher said, adding that “the only downtown and main streets that don’t have parking problems are places where no one wants to go – and that is not Gulfport.”
The city will contact the property owners in the WRD and actively seeks ideas and feedback on how Gulfport could persuade them not to build McMansions and McBuildings.
For more information and project input, contact Gulfport Community Development Director Fred Metcalf at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727-893-1095. Reach Forward Pinellas representative Linda Fisher at email@example.com or 727-464-8220.