Gilich: Vision turns to reality in 2018

Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich told a State of the City audience that a host of big-ticket projects that his administration has been talking about for months will become reality this year, with more on the way.

“Make no mistake,” the mayor told a Biloxi Bay Chamber luncheon audience. “2018 is going to be the year that you see big things happening – in all areas of our city. It’s happening now.”

The occasion marked Gilich’s third State of the City address since being elected in a special election in 2015, but his first since being elected to his first full term seven months ago. Much focused on the “authentic Biloxi experience,” whether it was in a restored downtown Biloxi or on a rejuvenated Point Cadet waterfront or on Back Bay, where the Popp’s Ferry Causeway Project is nearing completion.

The mayor outlined a host of projects and plans during his presentation before an audience of more than 600 at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino. He spoke for a couple of minutes before and after a 24-minute video that highlighted dozens of initiatives across the city. Gilich, whose voice faltered with emotion near the end of his closing remarks, received a standing ovation as he approached the stage and at the end of his presentation.

Among the projects to begin construction this year: returning Howard Avenue to two-way traffic, restoration of the Saenger Theater exterior, overhead pedestrian walkways on U.S. 90 at MGM Park and east of Main Street, a new 13,000-square-foot command fire station on city property at Cedar-Popp’s, the initial construction inside the proposed Division Street entrance to Keesler, and a West Biloxi festival beachside boardwalk, a city-county project that is now under construction that will be joined later this year with construction of a similar boardwalk that will eventually ring Point Cadet, from the Point Cadet fishing bridge to Oak Street.

The boardwalks are part of a master plan Gilich has for the waterfront, highlighted by a Point Cadet festival marketplace that would see “an enhanced marina, a pavilion for fishing tournaments and festivals, shops and restaurants in a festival seafood marketplace, and a public off-loading dock for fresh oysters.”

The Point Cadet site, east of the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino, “is our golden opportunity for economic development, to enhance tourism and our seafood and maritime industries in authentic but modern ways, embracing the future while honoring the past.”

Gilich said the city is asking the state Legislature to steer rent money from the Golden Nugget to help make the project a reality. Said the mayor: These are visions right now, and with help from our Legislators and state partners we can make them a reality.”

Visions aside, 2018 remains a year of reality, he added. Two new hotels – the Hilton Garden Inn and Watermark – are scheduled to open this summer, and a third, La Quinta Inn and Suites, is nearing construction west of the Doubletree. In addition, Gilich said, the high-performance go-kart track, Finishline, on west beach, and Saltgrass Steakhouse, on U.S. 90 at Myrtle, are also expected to open this summer.
State of the City report: Video, photo gallery and more