Elements of Urbanism: Gulfport-Biloxi

September 8, 2010 11 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville vists Mississippi's largest Gulf Coast metropolitan area: Gulfport-Biloxi

Tale of the Tape:

Gulfport Population 2008: 70,055 (City); 238,772 (Metro - 2009) - (incorporated in 1898)

Biloxi Pop. 2008: 45,670 (City) - (incorporated in 1838)

Jacksonville Pop. 2008: 807,815 (City); 1,328,144 (Metro - 2009) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Gulfport (22,659); Biloxi (37,425)

City Land Area

Gulfport: 56.9 square miles
Biloxi: 38.0 square miles
Jacksonville: 757.7 square miles

Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2000-2009)

Gulfport-Biloxi: -3.01%
Jacksonville: +15.86%

Urban Area Population (2000 census)

Gulfport-Biloxi: 205,754 (ranked 147 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 882,295 (ranked 43 nationwide)

Urban Area Population Density (2000 census)

Gulfport-Biloxi: 1,525.1  
Jacksonville: 2,149.2

City Population Growth from 2000 to 2008

Gulfport: -1,072
Biloxi: -4,974
Jacksonville: +72,312

Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Gulfport-Biloxi: Mississippi Coast Coliseum & Convention Center (1977) - 180,000 square feet
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1985) - 78,500 square feet

Connected to Convention Center:

Gulfport-Biloxi: N/A
Jacksonville: N/A

Tallest Building:

Gulfport-Biloxi: Beau Rivage Casino Hotel - 346 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet


Fortune 500 companies 2009 (City limits only):

Gulfport-Biloxi: n/a
Jacksonville: CSX (259), Winn-Dixie (306), Fidelity National Financial (366)


Urban infill obstacles:

Gulfport-Biloxi: Rebuilding from the negative impacts of Hurricane Katrina.
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off Downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.


Downtown Nightlife:

Gulfport-Biloxi: N/A
Jacksonville: East Bay Street


Common Downtown Albatross:

Surface parking lots and vacant land.

Who's Downtown is more walkable?

Gulfport: 74 out of 100, according to walkscore.com (Downtown Gulfport as keyword)
Biloxi: 83 out of 100, according to walkscore.com (Downtown Biloxi as keyword)
Jacksonville: 88 out of 100, according to walkscore.com

Visual Information

Green = Jacksonville's city limits (current urban core) before consolidation in 1968
Red = Jacksonville's current consolidated city-county limits

Jacksonville's current and original city limit boundaries over Gulfport's (blue) & Biloxi's (red) land area.

About Gulfport

On July 28, 1898, Gulfport was incorporated. In 1902, the harbor was completed, and the Port of Gulfport became a working seaport.

The Port of Gulfport has flourished over the years and today accounts for millions of dollars in annual sales and tax revenue for the state of Mississippi.

From its simple, humble beginnings as a lumber and port city, Gulfport has evolved into a diversified community. With about 6.7 miles of man-made white sandy beaches along the Gulf of Mexico, Gulfport is one of the fastest growing areas in the state, due in part to recent gaming activities. Home of the annual "Worlds Largest Fishing Rodeo," Gulfport is a residential community that is blessed with a strong business center.

The downtown area provides a strong mercantile center. Along the beach are historic home sites with several motels scattered throughout to accommodate the golfing and water tourist that make up a large part of the economy.

In December 1993 the City annexed 33 square miles north of Gulfport making it the second largest city in Mississippi with a land area of 62.37 square miles and a population in excess of 70,000.

Downtown Gulfport

Today in the City of Gulfport on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the largest façade grant program in the nation’s history, a $4.425 million project, and a $7.6 million streetscape project are providing the downtown area a dramatic makeover and preparing it for a future of continued growth.

While the federally funded projects are giving downtown Gulfport a new look, they are using the City’s “old” look as a guide for the multi-million dollar facelift. Maintaining the historical integrity of the area has been a major consideration of the Gulfport Main Street Association, which is implementing the projects.

The façade grant program is providing new exteriors to more than 65 downtown buildings.

Mississippi State Port Authority at Gulfport

The Port of Gulfport is a bulk, break-bulk and container seaport which encompasses 204 acres, has nearly 6,000 feet of berthing space and averages over 2 million tons of cargo a year shipping over 200,000 TEU'S. The Port of Gulfport has gained a solid reputation as the second largest importer of green fruit in the United States and the 3rd busiest container port on the US Gulf of Mexico.

About Biloxi

The history of Biloxi, Mississippi, spans more than 300 years. The first permanent settlement in French Louisiana was founded at Fort Maurepas, now in Ocean Springs, Mississippi and referred to as Old Biloxi, in 1699 under the direction of Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville, with Louisiana separated from Spanish Florida at the Perdido River near Pensacola (founded 1559 and again in 1698).

The name of Biloxi in French was "Bilocci" (with "fort Maurepas"), and the name was sometimes translated into English as "Fort Bilocci" on maps updated circa year 1710/1725.

British rule persisted from 1763 to 1779, and then Spanish rule from 1779 to 1798. Despite this, the character of Biloxi remained mostly French. In 1811, Biloxi came under United States of America control as part of the Mississippi Territory. Mississippi, and Biloxi with it, were then admitted to the union in 1817.

Now that ownership was settled, Biloxi began to grow. It became a summer resort, with the advantages of close proximity to New Orleans and ease of access via water. Summer homes were built by well-to-do farmers and commercial figures. Hotels and rental cottages came into existence to serve those who could not afford their own homes.

Biloxi Lighthouse, built in 1848 and reputed to be one of the most photographed objects in the American South.  One of Biloxi's most known features has been Biloxi Lighthouse, which was built in Baltimore and then shipped south and completed in May 1848.

In the early stages of the Civil War, Ship Island was captured by Union forces, which led to the effective Union capture of Biloxi as well. No major battles were fought in the area, and Biloxi did not suffer direct damage from the war. Some local Union sentiment could be discerned following the war's conclusion.

In the postbellum period, Biloxi again emerged as a vacation spot. Its popularity as a destination increased with railroad access. In 1881, the first cannery was built in the town, leading to others soon joining the location. Biloxi grew again, and as different national groups came to work in the seafood factories, Biloxi gained a more heterogeneous nature.

During World War II, the United States Army Air Forces built Keesler Field, now Keesler Air Force Base, which became a major basic training site and site for aircraft maintenance. The Biloxi economy boomed as a result, again bringing more diverse groups to the area.

In the early 1960s, the Gulf Coast again emerged as a prime alternative to Florida as a southern vacation destination among Northerners, with Biloxi a center of the focus.

With the introduction of legal gambling in Mississippi in the 1990s, Biloxi was again transformed. It became an important center for casinos, and the hotels and complexes brought millions of dollars in tourism revenue to the city. The more famous casino complexes were the Beau Rivage casino resort, the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino (Biloxi), Casino Magic, Grand Casino, Isle of Capri Casino Resort, Boomtown Casino, President Casino Broadwater Resort, and Imperial Palace. Like Tunica County in the northern part of the state, Biloxi and the surrounding Gulf Coast region was considered a leading gambling center in the Southern United States.

To celebrate the area's Tricentennial in 1998/99, the city's tourism promotion agency invited the nationally-syndicated Travel World Radio Show to broadcast live from Biloxi, with co-host Willem Bagchus in attendance.

By the early 2000s, Biloxi's economy rested on the three prongs of seafood, tourism and gaming.
Full history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biloxi,_Mississippi

Hurricane Katrina

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast with high winds, heavy rains and a 27-foot storm surge, causing massive damage to the area. Katrina came ashore during the high tide of 6:56AM, +2.3 feet more. Commenting on the power of the storm and the damage, Mayor A.J. Holloway said, "This is our tsunami." Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour was quoted as saying the destruction of the Mississippi coastline by Hurricane Katrina looked like an American Hiroshima.

On the morning of August 31, 2005, in an interview on MSNBC, Governor Barbour stated that 90% of the buildings along the coast in Biloxi and neighboring Gulfport had been destroyed by the hurricane. Several of the "floating" casinos were torn off their supports and thrown inland, contributing to the damage. All coastal churches were destroyed or severely damaged.

Many churches were damaged, including St. Michael's Catholic Church, which was gutted by the storm surge, breaking the entry doors and stained-glass windows along the first floor; however, the interior was later removed, and the structure was still solid enough to allow repairing the church.

Hurricane Katrina damaged over 40 Mississippi libraries, flooding several feet in the Biloxi Public Library and breaking windows, beyond repair, requiring a total rebuild.

Hurricane-force winds persisted for 17 hours and tore the branches off many coastal oak trees, but the tree trunks survived the 30-foot flood and many have since regrown smaller branches. Some reconstructed homes still have the antebellum appearance, and miles inland, with less flooding, shopping centers have re-opened.

Harrison County Coroner Gary T. Hargrove told the mayor and City Council that Hurricane Katrina had claimed 53 victims in Biloxi, as of January 30, 2006. Of the 53 confirmed fatalities in Biloxi, a figure that includes one unidentified male, Hargrove said the average age was 58, with the youngest being 22 and the oldest 90; 14 were female and 39 were male.

Biloxi is also the site of a well-known memorial to the Katrina victims, built by the crew and volunteers of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Many casinos were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Of the casinos that were located in Biloxi, eight have reopened since Katrina. They are: the Grand Biloxi Casino Hotel Spa (formerly known as Grand Casino Biloxi), the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, the Isle of Capri Casino and Resort, the Palace Casino Resort, the IP Casino Resort Spa (formerly known as Imperial Palace), Treasure Bay Casino, Boomtown Casino, and the Beau Rivage, which re-opened on the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Multiple plans have been laid out to rebuild the waterfront areas of Biloxi, and the federal government has recently announced that it is considering giving up to 17,000 Mississippi coast homeowners the option to sell their properties so that a vast hurricane-protection zone can be implemented. Meanwhile, the city of Biloxi is rapidly implementing plans to allow the redevelopment of commercial properties south of highway 90.

Kessler Air Force Base has been a major part of Biloxi's economy since 1941.
The base is home of Headquarters, Second Air Force (2 AF) and the 81st Training Wing (81 TW) of the Air Education and Training Command (AETC).

The 81 TW is responsible for the technical training of airmen in select skill areas immediately following their completion of basic training as well as providing additional or recurrent training they will need for upcoming assignments. On average, Keesler has 4,700 students on base at a time. Much of the training they receive is in the field of electronics, such as wideband maintenance, ground radio, information technology, avionics, cryptography.

The 81st Training Wing also trains personnel in the field of meteorology, to include observing, weather analysis and forecasting, radar operations, air traffic control, Aviation Resource Management (ARMS), and tropical cyclone forecasting. The 81st Medical Group is also located at the base and operates the second largest medical center in the Air Force.

Other groups assigned to Keesler AFB include the 45th Airlift Squadron (45 AS), which provides training in the C-21 Learjet. The Air Force Reserve Command's 403d Wing (403 WG) also located at Keesler is an Air Mobility Command (AMC)-gained composite unit which provides theater airlift support through the 815th Airlift Squadron and its C-130 Hercules aircraft, as well as serving as the parent unit to the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, a WC-130 unit known as the "Hurricane Hunters." Finally, Keesler is also home to CNATTU Keesler (Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit), a training unit for Navy and Marine personnel.

Keesler AFB is one of the largest technical training wings in the AETC. There are 5 training squadrons located in the triangle (Training complex). The 332nd, 334th, 335th, 336th, and the 338th.

Biloxi Lighthouse, built in 1848 and reputed to be one of the most photographed objects in the American South.

Mississippi Coast Coliseum & Convention Center

Beauvoir was the location of the retirement home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The compound consisted of approximately 608 acres  when Davis lived there (today, the site is approximately 52 acres in size). Beauvoir is located in Biloxi, Mississippi across US Highway 90 from Biloxi Beach. The name "Beauvoir" means "beautiful to view".

The compound consists of a Louisiana raised cottage-style plantation residence, a botanical garden, a former Confederate veterans home, a modern gift shop, a Confederate Soldier Museum, the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library and Museum, various outbuildings, and a historic Confederate cemetery which includes the Tomb of the Unknown Confederate Soldier. Five out of seven of these buildings were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina and replicas are being planned.

The house was surrounded with cedars, oaks and magnolia trees and at one time had an orange grove behind it. The home faces the Gulf of Mexico and Spanish moss hangs from many of the large old trees on the property.

Oyster Bayou, a freshwater impoundment and bayhead swamp; once connected directly to the Mississippi Sound and runs across the property behind the main house from West to East. This body of water is fed by natural artesian springs that lie on the grounds. The northeast portion of the estate is the site of a primitive, pre-urban hardwood forest with an environment similar to what existed in the area during the 1800s. Proposals currently call for restoration of Oyster Bayou to its original environmental state, though this area also suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Katrina.

Downtown Biloxi - Vieux Marche Mall

Vieux Marche Mall

Gulfport-Biloxi Tidbits

- In 1720, the administrative capital of French Louisiana was moved to Biloxi (or Bilocci) from Mobile (or Mobille). French Louisiana (part of New France) was known in French as La Louisiane in colonial times, but in modern times is called "La Louisiane française" to distinguish from the modern state of Louisiana (also "Louisiane" in French).[4]

Due to fears of tides and hurricanes in the 1700s, the capital of French Louisiana was later moved by colonial governor Bienville, in 1723, from Biloxi to a new inland harbor town named La Nouvelle-Orléans (New Orleans), built for the purpose in 1718-1720

- Biloxi's casino history dates back to a period in the 1940s, when open if technically illegal gambling took place in a casino within the Broadwater Beach Resort.[10] Open gambling ended during the 1950s.

- The Mississippi Gulf Coast was once known as the "Poor Man's Riviera."

- In the center of what fisheries biologists term "The Fertile Fisheries Crescent", Biloxi offers some of the finest sportsfishing along the entire northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

- Notable residents include Jessica Alba, Jimmy Buffett, Jefferson Davis,


Article by Ennis Davis