The Job Corps site renovation project removes a major administrative obstacle

GULFPORT, Mississippi (WLOX) – The wheels of progress on the renovation of the former Job Corps site in Gulfport are finally starting to roll. After years of planning and months of protesting the construction contract, the $ 43 million project could start by the end of the year.

When Gulfport City Councilor Kenneth “Truck” Casey walks past the old 33rd Avenue high school, it’s like stepping back in time. But it’s the future that excites him the most.

“The community will benefit from it,” he said. “We have a plan to do something in the historic district area as far as business is concerned, and to make some improvements as regards the infrastructure. And make money available to owners in the community so they can upgrade their property. So everything will play out accordingly with a brand new $ 43 million building.

The historic school was the seat of the Job Corps until Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Federal funds for renovations were allocated in 2018, but progress has been slow and frustrating.

“Time is up and we need to have this facility up and running on behalf of the students and the community,” Casey said.

Today, one of the last administrative hurdles has been lifted. On June 25, the construction contract was awarded to Roy Anderson Corp, but a protest filed in July forced the Department of Labor to issue a stop-work order.

Two days ago this order was lifted and all that is needed is a notice of prosecution, and it could happen any day.

“This is a done deal and we are ready to move forward,” Casey said.

Mark Lishen of Eley Guild Hardy Architects calls this a legacy project. It integrates respect for history with a vision for the future. The facades facing 20th Street and 34th Avenue will remain, but everything else will be high-tech classrooms and places of social gathering.

“You have to remember that we are standing outside the original separate high school for African American students that was built in 1953,” Lishen said. “The 33rd Avenue alumni group has so much history and so much love for this property and these buildings.”

Once the work has started, it can take up to two years to complete. Class modules currently in use on the property are expected to move south by January, but the process could begin in two to three weeks.

And before construction begins, asbestos and mold will need to be removed.

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