Holloway outlines unprecedented program of public improvements

The Revival of the Renaissance is underway in Biloxi, Mayor A.J. Holloway told a State of the City audience today, and it’s coming to a street corner near you.

Holloway, speaking to a capacity audience of more than 650 at a Biloxi Bay Chamber-sponsored luncheon at the Beau Rivage, outlined the largest program of public work ever to be undertaken in Biloxi, and, in a nod to the ongoing discussion over land-use and the height of proposed buildings in the city, he said that the city should seek greater public input to gauge public sentiment.

“We need to reach out to the general public instead of listening to the requests of developers and the small percentage of people who have time to come to public meetings,” Holloway said. “We cannot control Mother Nature, but we can build in a responsible manner and make responsible decisions that will make our future a great one.”

The three-term mayor’s 32-minute speech was presented before the largest audience of his 14 State of the City addresses. Audience members gave Holloway standing ovations before and after the speech, and interrupted him with applause nine times during the presentation.

Cable One will air the speech Tuesday at 8 and 10 a.m. and 8 and 10 p.m. on Cable 13 in Biloxi.

The mayor updated audience members on city finances, the rebounding hospitality industry, and the massive amount of work that now underway or in the offing.

Over the past 10 years, Biloxi has spent an average of $16 million a year on major improvements projects. “Today, that budget is $53 million,” Holloway declared, “with another $60 million working its way through the FEMA pipeline.”

Among the projects Holloway listed: $10 million in repairs and improvements at Point Cadet Marina and the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor; $3 million in repairs and improvements to more than three-quarters of the streets in Biloxi; a project to add new street lighting to all of U.S. 90 in Biloxi; the re-opening of the Biloxi Community Center by the end of the year, with plans for a new building on Howard Avenue to house a larger, permanent community center and downtown library; and restoration of the Old Brick House and Biloxi Lighthouse.

Holloway also announced that Caillavet Street, a pre-storm project that he said followed the recommendations of the Reviving the Renaissance initiative, would be completed in 90 days, and would include paving of the roadway from U.S. 90 to Bayview Avenue.

The mayor reiterated his post-storm message that Biloxi must rebuild in a responsible manner and that the city should enact FEMA’s advisory flood elevations.

The rebuild of Biloxi’s housing stock will see more housing than was available pre-Katrina.

Biloxi lost 6,000 homes and businesses to Katrina, Holloway said, but housing projects now being undertaken by the Biloxi Housing Authority, Keesler Air Force Base and private developers will see nearly 8,500 homes and housing units created, with the first residents moving in next month and construction set to begin on many others this summer.

Holloway said the real story of Biloxi’s recovery has been the people of Biloxi and how they have persevered since Katrina struck Aug. 29, 2005.

“We are in the midst of something most people can only dream of,” the mayor said at the close of his address. “We were making history before this storm, and we stand poised to make history again. Imagine that. Some people are lucky to be a part of history once in their lifetime. We have the chance to be part of history twice in our lifetime.”

Online coverage

—To read the entire text of Mayor Holloway’s State of the City address, click here.

—To see photographs of audience members at State of the City address, click here.