Hope VI formally breaks ground at Bayview site

Mayor A.J. Holloway, third from right, joins housing leaders, builders and
other partners in formally breaking ground at the site off Bayview Avenue.

Construction has been underway for several weeks, but the Biloxi Housing Authority and local leaders made it official this morning: Ground was ceremoniously broken at the Bayview/Bayou Auguste Hope VI housing development in east Biloxi.

Public housing leaders, HUD respresentatives and Mayor A.J. Holloway gathered on two oak-laden sites off Biloxi’s Back Bay, which formerly held 322 units of barracks-style public housing, to break ground on 233 mixed-income housing units – the first of which will be available by December 2004.

The 233 units are part of an overall 387-unit HOPE VI master plan for east Biloxi. It will include 65 single-family units: 31 homes to be built in the neighborhood surrounding the Bayview/Bayou Auguste site, and 34 on the former East End homes site, where a 76-unit elderly complex will also be constructed.

“This project is more than building places for people to live,” Mayor Holloway told the gathering of realtors, bankers, builders and others at the groundbreaking. “This project is about building our future. This project is about improving the quality of life and the quality of neighborhoods, which will instill pride and self-esteem in residents.

“And when you do that, you create an environment that will attract commercial and retail businesses, which will create jobs, which improves the tax base, which helps improve the lives of ALL residents of this entire city.”

Development plans went into motion when BHA was awarded with a $35 million HUD Hope VI grant — the largest dollar amount currently awarded to any city of any size. That grant was leveraged to obtain an additional $25 million through tax credits, tax credit equity, first mortgage financing, a $1 million contribution from the City of Biloxi and a $150,000 contribution from Harrison County — bringing the total to $60 million.

In this first component of the development, BHA is investing over $6 million in infrastructure and site improvements. This includes streets, roads, sidewalks, utilities, water, sewer and exterior lighting. Neighborhood street lighting will mirror the lighting on Bayview Avenue, helping the development to blend in with the rest of the neighborhood.

According Bobby Hensley, BHA Executive Director, community input has been critical to many decisions related to the project ranging from design to unit mix, trees, financing and social services. The Bayview/Bayour Auguste plans were refined through an in-depth series of planning meetings with public housing residents, city officials, non-profit groups and members of the community.

The site was re-oriented to restore the traditional street grid and to feature the natural beauty of the bayou – Bayou Auguste. Now, a bridge will be built over the bayou to join the properties of what were once two totally separate, fenced-off housing projects. The architecture of the townhomes, garden-style apartments and single-family homes on-site has been carefully designed to blend favorably with the typical bungalow style of the homes in the surrounding neighborhood, Hensley said.

An added benefit to future residents of the the HOPE VI is the construction of two nearby state-of-the-art elementary schools. Nichols Elementary is on property adjoining the Bayview/Bayou Auguste site, and Gorenflo Elementary is a couple of blocks away. Both are scheduled to open for the 2004-2005 school year.

General contractor for the development is W.G. Yates & Sons Construction. Primary subcontractors for the infrastructure work are F&F Construction of Biloxi and SJ&L Construction of Mobile, Ala., along with Gulf Coast subcontractors Jarmon & Sons, Landmark Construction and Warren Paving. Vertical construction of homes is expected to start in May 2004, with the first units available for occupancy December 2004.

Says Chairman Robinson, “There will no longer be a stigma attached to the housing on this beautiful site. It will now be a shining jewel about which Biloxi can be proud.”

Biloxi Housing Authority contacts:
Brenda Breaux, Biloxi Housing Authority, 228-374-6736, bbreaux@datasync.com;
Allison Buchanan, Buchanan Group, 228-388-3306, ab@buchanangroup.com