City has million-dollar week with new hotel proposal

The City of Biloxi added a million dollars to its bank account Thursday afternoon and ushered in a new era of business development with the sale of a waterfront site that will see the development of a new 100-room hotel and the creation of 45 jobs.

Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich and hotel operators Shivam of America signed closing documents that formally saw the city accepting $1.024 million for the 1.75-acre site, which is the former location of the old Biloxi hospital and northeast of the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor. The site has been vacant since Hurricane Katrina.

The sale, which was approved by the City Council in December, will see the construction of a Hilton Garden Inn, a five- to six-story structure just east of the former Santa Maria Del Mar retirement home.

“This is new era for economic development in Biloxi,” Gilich said after he and City Attorney and Economic Development Counsel Gerald Blessey reviewed documents with hotel developers Hari Patel and Shashikant C. “Sam” Bhakta.

The developers hope to break ground in August with a goal of having the hotel open soon after the first of the year.

“This project will produce at least 45 new jobs and 100 new hotel rooms on surplus city land that has been vacant since Katrina,” Gilich said. “Although this project is the last to fall under the old city tax exemption policy, the developers agreed to the new policy on incentives:  50 percent of property tax for five years and a guarantee that the 45 jobs will be produced within two years.

“If not, the exemption ends and the prior two years’ taxes must be paid,” Gilich added. “This project is a fine example of what we’re doing to incent developers to put surplus city land back to work.”

Although the city’s previous economic development policy did not include guarantees for job creation, Gilich and Blessey convinced developers to make them part of the agreement with the city.

Under terms of the city’s newly approved economic development incentives, developers must provide reasonable documentation showing the project would not go forward without the tax exemption incentive, and on the second anniversary of the tax exemption, the developer must prove that the promised number of jobs exist or lose the exemption and pay for the past two years taxes.
See the procedure for city tax exemptions
See a photo of the signing


Grillin’ has 80 percent chance of clear skies

A few weeks ago, Biloxi Main Street decided to postpone the annual “Grillin’ on the Green” extravaganza to this weekend to dodge the rain on the weekend of the St. Patrick’s parade.

And now it looks like it was a good decision.

Some of the 75 arts and crafts vendors began setting up their booths today, in anticipation of Saturday’s 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. event on the Town Green. Visitors will find a children’s play area, live music by Rhythm & Rain and Barbara & Company and others will be on hand, but the big attraction will be the 23 backyard grillers who will be competing for cash, prizes and bragging rights.

Admission to the event is free but there a $5 fee for entry to the children’s area.

And the forecast? The National Weather Service is predicting mostly cloudy skies and only a 20 percent chance of rain for Saturday.
See the flyer for the event
Hear about it in City Desk podcast
See what’s up this weekend


News and notes

Summer camp reminder:  Biloxi residents with children ages 5 to 14 may sign up for the city’s Summer Playground and Enrichment program on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at the Donal Snyder Community Center, 2520 Pass Rd.  To learn more, click here.

Podcasting: Hear the wrap-up of Spring Break, the status of infrastructure work and a preview of this weekend’s Grillin’ on the Green in this week’s City Desk podcast. To listen to the program, click here.

Great job, Linda Hornsby: The city’s informal online poll is done. Eighty-percent of the nearly 2,000 who took part in the two-day poll favor the idea of a firework-free east beach for the Fourth of July fireworks show. Longtime tourism leader Linda Hornsby had pitched the idea to the mayor as an idea to make the annual Biloxi fireworks show even more enjoyable. The fireworks-free zone on east beach would stretch from the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor to Oak Street when the Fourth of July rolls around.

City Council agenda: The Biloxi City Council meets on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. at Biloxi City Hall. To see the agenda for the meeting, along with supporting documents, click here.