Holloway updates growth, progress in Biloxi

Tourism has always been Biloxi’s niche, Mayor A.J. Holloway says, so it makes sense that most of the development the city is seeing is in the tourism sector.

“We’re seeing a lot of positive signs in Biloxi right now,” Holloway told a luncheon meeting of the Biloxi Businessmen’s Club today at Mary Mahoney’s Old French House Restaurant.

The mayor said the 850 rooms and four hotels now being proposed in Biloxi would be a 13 percent boost to the current room inventory and bring Biloxi to about 80 percent of its pre-Katrina rooms.

The mayor updated progress on commercial development throughout the city, and said more than 600 new homes are being planned for Woolmarket, where $3 million sewer work is underway. He also outlined more than $11 million in public improvement projects now under construction, including work at the Popp’s Ferry causeway, commercial fishing docks on Back Bay and front beach, and at fire stations and elevated water tanks throughout the city.

Public improvement work is vital to future growth, he said, noting that the widening of Cedar Lake and Popp’s Ferry roads year ago helped spur tremendous growth in that area, and led to the new $132 million, 144-bed hospital planned for the location.

Among the other news in his speech:

— Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville has added a buffet, and reconfigured its entertainment space, meaning the east Biloxi development grown to a $53 million venture, with an expected opening in April. And the nearby Biloxi Boardwalk Marina and Dry Storage, an $11 million development that can accommodate 400 vessels, will offer a restaurant, ship’s store and “much more.”

— Sharkheads, the huge pink souvenir shop now under construction on west beach, is scheduled to open March 2012 with 27,000 square feet of retail, “but more important than that it makes a statement about the rebuilding of the beachfront in west Biloxi.”

— The new Wal-mart opens its 150,000 square-foot supercenter in January, but the impact is already being felt. The city is now reviewing plans for a 12,500-square-foot Dollar Tree proposed for Edgewater Village Shopping Center, a Dunkin’ Donuts is headed to Edgewater Square, and more growth is expected as the War-mart opening nears.

Said Holloway: “All of these things are happening without the people of Biloxi having to buy the business. At City Hall, we provide the services, the infrastructure, and we stay out of the way.”

Read for yourself: To read the prepared text of the mayor’s speech, click here.