Gulfport City Whys: Main Street

Q: Why is this GREAT opportunity (Main Street) being ignored by our elected officials, our Merchants Association and our Chamber of Commerce? – Lynne DiVenuti

A: We asked the Merchant’s Association, the Chamber of Commerce, councilwoman Barbara Banno, and the city manager to talk to us about this question.

 Leslie Gilchrist of the Merchant’s Association told us the Association has considered the program, but “it would require someone to make a full time commitment to making it happen and most of the merchants put all their time into their businesses. There were other reasons we didn't feel it was a good fit. There are opportunities everywhere, doesn't make them all great.”  

 City manager Jim O’Reilly said that the city looked at the program but the city already does much of what the program suggests, such as event support, zoning, and landscaping. Also, he added, it would require a great deal of time, energy and money – not just from the city, but the businesses.

 “Main Street is a program that requires large scale private business community and private property owner support and investment of not just  money, but  time and energy. The creation of the required Main Street Board of Directors with an Executive Director would mean that the program would replace the city’s efforts,” O’Reilly said.

 Councilwoman Barbara Banno looked into the Main Street issue, meeting with representatives from Grand Central District’s Main Street program, attending Main Street meetings, and holding a Gulfport town hall meeting about the issue. She told the Gabber she ultimately decided not to pursue the program based on feedback from the Merchant’s Association and the Chamber of Commerce, but she says if businesses change their mind and want her to pursue Main Street, she’d be glad to take her fellow council members for discussion.

 That doesn’t mean the city and business associations wouldn’t consider the program again. It simply means that the businesses need to put their time, effort, and funding behind it.

 “If those specific  property owners directly affected or impacted by such a program would like to pursue the creation of a Main Street program further and accept the appropriate roles and responsibilities, I am sure that city would endorse the private sectors efforts with the program,” O’Reilly said.

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