New owner of Centennial Plaza also owns Markham building, harbor casino site
A sign advertises a Holiday Inn Resort to be built at Centennial Plaza in Gulfport. Virginia attorney Robert Lubin, who also proposes building a casino at the Gulfport Harbor and restoring the Markham Hotel in downtown Gulfport, has bought out the Juneau family’s interest in the Centennial Plaza project and plans to start construction of the resort later this year.
It’s been almost three years since the announcement that a Holiday Inn Resort was coming Centennial Plaza in Gulfport, and three meetings this week pushed that closer to reality.
The Gulfport Redevelopment Commission met Tuesday and the Gulfport Council on Tuesday and Friday, said commission attorney Steve Hendrix with Butler Snow law firm in Jackson.
All the agreements now are in place, he said, to transfer interest in the project and the ground lease from the Juneau family to Robert Lubin and his company, GBR.
In August 2014, Louisiana developer Stewart Juneau said that a Holiday Inn Resort would anchor the $40.5 million phase one of development at Centennial Plaza, a former veterans center. The federal government deeded the 57 acres and historical buildings to Gulfport after the site was damaged during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The original project called for about 150 hotel rooms, a swimming pool with lazy river, trails, open-air market and a stage. A future $80 million in development would add amusement rides, a beach boardwalk and pier along with other amenities, Juneau said.
Most everything about the hotel project will stay the same, Hendrix said.
“Lubin is committed to the Holiday Inn franchise,” Hendrix said, and is in the process of getting Holiday Inn to certify the change of control.
Using the same design and rolling the new ownership into the same Centennial Plaza entity will save time, he said, since the project already has been reviewed and approved by the city.
The historic tax credits that held up the project are now in place along with new market tax credits and a construction lender, Hendrix said. He expects the closing on the financing to occur in October and construction to begin this fall.
A Virginia attorney, Lubin specializes in working with foreign investors who pay $500,000 to $1 million for an EB-5 visa that allows them permanent residency in the United States in return for their investment.
Lubin flew into Gulfport in January 2016 and announced his plans to restore the Markham Hotel in downtown Gulfport and build a casino at the Gulfport Harbor.
That was 18 months ago, and Lubin said the casino would take about a year and a half to build and the Markham 15-18 months to restore. Although neither project has started, “He’s making a significant investment in Gulfport, no question about it,” Hendrix said.
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