To the editor:
Mobile is in the process of creating an experiential entertainment and leisure-based redevelopment and programming of our magnificent working riverfront at Cooper Riverside Park, the home of our GulfQuest Maritime Museum. Cooper Park is being programmed with an abundance and variety of riverside food and beverage services, live music, retail and other family leisure-based entertainment and events that will greatly benefit GulfQuest and Mobile’s next level of downtown branding and growth.
Our Historic Battle House Hotel is our city’s “Living Room” and the city’s riverfront is our “Front Porch.” We need to first redevelop and program our riverfront (our Front Porch) for our local citizens to enjoy. Both a stronger and contributing GulfQuest and an enhanced downtown tourism experience can then be achieved with the list of strategic planned action items that will be implemented. Stay tuned.
Our active and diverse Mobile riverfront (home of our globally competitive Maritime industry and GulfQuest) is the reason for our city’s initial founding and is directly responsible for our modern-day economic growth and tax base. Mobile’s riverfront, our “front porch,” is also being regionally developed as a gateway to our large, magnificently forested and outdoors experiential Delta, five large rivers, bays and beaches eco-system. Our planned GulfQuest docked high-speed ferries are a central part of that growth.
Today the City of Mobile under Mayor Sandy Stimpson, is aggressively organizing around effective “public sector incentivized” and “private sector funded” actions to reach our city’s tourism potential. David Clark, CEO of our Convention & Visitors Bureau is leading the committee of public/private stakeholders to redesign and program our riverfront. Our city is on the Coastal Alabama Partnership (CAP) strategic plan path under Wiley Blankenship’s leadership and stewardship to expand our tourism to a branded regional model. Did I hear High Speed ferries again? Let’s develop this idea further.
Did you know that Mobile’s trade port is the fastest growing port in the nation for three years in a row? Jimmy Lyons, our competitive and effective port director, has done an incredible job for Mobile and Alabama. Why are we as a community not educated, aware and celebrating our city and regions core economic values around, within and through our GulfQuest Maritime Center? That was the original vision for GulfQuest that we are going to get back on track with. I have some ideas about how to achieve this. Come visit us. Contribute your ideas. Volunteer to assist us in educating, showcasing and celebrating.
The French founded Mobile as a deep-water trade port in 1702. The French, English and Spanish Colonial powers created Mobile as the ruler of the Gulf of Mexico to Europe Trade routes with Mobile, linked to Havana and Veracruz. Our recent state legislative vote for gas tax funds providing the match to Congressional funding to deepen our ship channel will open up China and many other world trade ports.
Now let’s talk more specifically about why our Maritime Industry is so critical for our manufacturing and tourism identity and our city and regions continued competitive social, economic and political growth. Without our Maritime industry we would not have Airbus, Austal USA, ThyssenKrupp, Arcelor Mittal, Nippon Steel, Sumitomo Metals, Degussa/Evonik and a host of other foreign investment and economic development accomplishments.
THINK ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF ALL OF THIS. Add our Maritime’s history and assets’ core economic and cultural value of our forested and water-based outdoors live, work and play assets, to our city’s equally as rich diversity, historic architecture, seafood, arts and cultural assets in our “downtown and region” and “off we go to the Coastal Alabama Partnership’s (CAP’s) regional 15M visitor historic eco-tourism races.”
Our riverfront’s “Front Porch” based GulfQuest Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico showcases and celebrates all of our rich globally competitive 340-year Maritime history, our global trade and our leveraged industrial culture. Properly recognized, branded and marketed this core industry will provide an even more significant social, economic and political growth into our future. Showcased at GulfQuest right here on our city’s front porch!!!
Let’s now create adequate parking, distinctive pedestrian corridors and walkovers, run bike to our riverfront from our exciting civic center mixed use redevelopment and our funky Dauphin Street experience by several walk, run and bike pedestrian corridors. Let’s tie our upcoming 23-acre civic center mixed use redevelopment and Dauphin Street to our riverfront and GulfQuest, develop and connect the condemned spaces under our new I-10 bridge into a magnificent city park via planned contiguous developments leading, culminating and encompassing our reprogrammed riverfront. Time for a marina on our river. It is feasible says the plans of a maritime shipbuilding engineer that I spoke with last week.
It was a central part of the original GulfQuest vision. The ferry docks already exist. Pensacola just announced two 150 passenger high-speed ferries!!! That is our feasibility study. Mobile and our region can create a dynamic and uniquely competitive waterborne transportation system, similar to Vancouver and Seattle’s large regional models, that will connect our counties, cities and attractions on our magnificently forested delta, five large rivers, bays (to include our globally competitive deep water trade port) and gain an timely, easy access to the beaches right from GulfQuest on Mobile’s front porch. Yes, Mobile can develop a Savannah and Charlestown level of tourism. The I-10 bridge construction’s dysfunction for 10 years will mean that we have to create a new way to get workers back and forth across the bay (Mayor Stimpson’s thinking). This will quickly leverage into an expanded tourism transport. Mayor Stimpson and I feel the feds should and will supply these ferries as a mitigation of the I-10 bridge impacts.
This regional branding and connectiveness by water will allow the city of Mobile to compete in tourism, from our own core strengths at a national level equal or greater to Savanah and Charleston, our peers. I call this vision the “Vancouver and Seattle regional waterborne transportation tourism model.” It is already proven. Again, all things maritime, an abundance of water assets are Mobile’s core and competitive historic, cultural and economic impact assets, that if developed competitively will continue leveraging our manufacturing. If we are aware and proactive Maritime will do the same for our tourism industry opportunity and growth. All showcased and celebrated (ferries docked) at GulfQuest. Visit us!! Join us by becoming a volunteer!! We need your ideas and contributions. More to come!!
Mike Dow, Executive Director
GulfQuest Maritime Museum
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