Knight Cities Challenge: Urban Retail Village

Gulfport is a city built on shipping. Steel containers line the coast, serving as a final defense between the city and the sea. Since 1902 Gulfport has been associated with the pods that flow in and out of the city like the body of water it borders, but now Laurie Toups, Gulfport Main Street Director, and a team of like-minded community members are trying to make some of those containers a permanent part of the landscape. The idea is an Urban Retail Village, and if the group has its way, they will begin working on the project, modeled after a number of similar setups around the country, in 2016.

The idea formed separately. Three visionaries with a common goal of revitalizing downtown Gulfport each saw a void in retail options for small to mid-size businesses. They wanted to incentivize companies to be a part of downtown again, and by creating affordable and modern real estate in a well-established area, they think they’re onto something.

The area will host 12 containers arranged in a u-shape with a green space for children, artists and musicians to take advantage of in the center. The 12 containers will each be two stories tall in order to maximize space, and thus revenue, but this project isn’t strictly about making money. This idea is part of a bigger plan to bring people into Gulfport and have them shop, play and, most importantly, stay in the downtown area.

One of the things that the group hopes to attract is a diverse group of tenants, including artists, clothing stores, jewelers and a few unique shops, to create a fun environment to shop in. By creating a melting pot of options for the consumer, the idea is that you may not be able to do it all in one day. It’s going to be a destination, not just a place to shop.

Another idea that is important to the success of the urban retail village is having an eco-friendly environment. Each tenant will have to work to incorporate flow-through air, natural lighting, and energy efficient equipment into their container. Some will even have the option of using vertical gardens to add an element of functional gardening to their operations, so expect the freshest of ingredients when dining at the urban retail village!

As you can see, the urban retail village is an exciting opportunity for downtown Gulfport and the entire Gulf Coast. We can only hope that the Knight Foundation will find its potential as inspiring as we do! Good luck, ya’ll!