Holloway sees good news on two fronts

Mayor A.J. Holloway says Biloxians should be encouraged by promising news on two important issues – the countdown to the re-opening of the Popp’s Ferry bridge in west Biloxi and news that the real-estate development community is apparently not letting Hurricane Katrina derail proposals for hundreds of millions of dollars in condominium development.

On Friday, bids will be opened for a 100-day project to repair the Popp’s Ferry bridge, a two-lane bridge that connected west Biloxi and Interstate 10 but has been impassible since the Aug. 29 hurricane.

“I’m hoping that the contract will be awarded the same day as bids are opened, and I hope that the contractor will be given a notice to begin work in a matter of hours instead of days or weeks,” Holloway said. The selected contractor, he added, is expected to work around the clock to meet the expected schedule.

Access to the Biloxi peninsula has been reduced to only one of three bridges – the I-110 high-rise – for motorists.

Many of the 20,000 motorists who used the Popp’s Ferry bridge on an average day before the storm – as well as the 40,000 motorists who traveled the U.S. 90 between Biloxi and Ocean Springs – have been forced to use the I-110 bridge, where 50,000 motorists were traveling on an average day before the storm.

The Popp’s Ferry work – which includes re-aligning more than a dozen of thje bridge’s concrete sections and replacing the hydraulics and motors that raise its span – could cost between $10 and $12 million, Holloway said, “and we’re very glad that the Federal Highway Administration and the Mississippi Department of Transportation are stepping in to help make all of this happen.”

Promising news on development front

Developers hoping to move forward with projects face an Oct. 6 deadline to submit information for the Planning Commission’s Nov. 3 agenda, which will be the group’s first meeting since Hurricane Katrina.

And the good news, according to Mayor A.J. Holloway, is that the $386 million in condominium development that had been working through the permitting process before the Aug. 29 storm is apparently still on track.

“In the month since the storm, we have had no calls from any developers about withdrawing any of their plans as a result of the storm,” Holloway said. “In fact, now that the governor has signed the on-shore gaming legislation, I think would-be developers, regardless of their plans, are going to be encouraged about the new potential we have here in Biloxi.

“We certainly have a ways to go before we can begin using the word ‘normal’ to describe things, but we’re in a position to not only resurrect the renaissance we enjoyed before this storm, but we stand to improve our quality of life in ways that we never envisioned before this storm.”

In January, during his annual state of the city address, Holloway observed that the city was on the cusp of a condominium development boom.

In May, the city had 549 units under construction, which would have doubled the number of condo units in Biloxi..

“But the big story,” Holloway declared, “is what we had — and still have — in the permitting pipeline: Proposals by developers for a total of 3,023 units amounting to nearly $400 million in construction. I know the condo market is speculative, and all of these proposals may not come to fruition, but that interest – and the fact that they’re apparently still on track despite the storm – sends a strong signal about the confidence people have in Biloxi and how we’re going to overcome this storm in a big way.”

You can read the Aug. 15 status of the condo market in Biloxi at https://biloxi.ms.us/PDF/condos81505.pdf

Debris teams reach milestone in Biloxi

As of Wednesday afternoon, debris crews had hauled more than 560,000 cubic yards of debris from rights-of-way throughout Biloxi, according to Brian Fulton of Neel-Schaffer, the firm overseeing the city’s massive debris-removal effort.

The amount of debris hauled to designated landfills north of Interstate 10 would cover a football field and stand 26 stories tall.

The city’s three debris-removal firms, who since Sept. 11 have employed teams working 12-hour days since Sept. 11, completed their first of four debris sweeps of the city last week.

Meantime, the city is preparing to publish legal notices and post signs on nearly 500 Point Cadet properties that the storm has either reduced to debris fields or has left partial structures that the city has deemed uninhabitable and a threat to public health and safety.

Under a plan revised by the City Council on Sept. 30, owners of properties the city intends to clear of debris will have 14 days to appeal the city’s decision before clearing would begin.

The city also plans to identify and notify owners of debris-filled properties to be cleared in the Holly Hills and Eagle Point areas, which are north of the Bay of Biloxi.

A list of the properties the city plans to clear also will be published via e-mail and on the city’s web site.