Mayor announces building permit for Santa Maria site

The city moments ago issued a building permit valued at $8 million to allow developers of the White House Hotel to transform the Katrina-ravaged Santa Maria retirement center into an upscale, all-suites hotel.

The Barrington Group, the local firm that restored the upscale White House Hotel in 2014 and unveiled the family-oriented Margaritaville this summer, plan to turn the former Santa Maria retirement home into the Watermark, a 154-room, all-suites hotel that would also feature a restaurant specializing in fresh-caught seafood and a lounge. The enterprise, expected to be a $12 million investment, proposes to create 70 permanent jobs.

Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich, speaking to a standing-room-only audience at the Biloxi Chamber Breakfast at Merit Health Biloxi, mentioned the building permit while updating progress on a range of ongoing issues  â€“ infrastructure work present and future, the proposed Division Street entrance to Keesler and the initiative to bring ultra-high speed internet service to Biloxi and south Mississippi.

Gilich also spoke of another restaurant that opens Friday on Main Street, a stone’s throw from the Santa Maria site. “It’s an upscale restaurant called ‘Patio 44,’ but I think locals will call it ‘Patio FoFo.'”

Among the other topics mentioned this morning:

— Infrastructure work: The initial base coat of asphalt should be on Back Bay Boulevard shortly, providing an alternative to the infrastructure work of east Biloxi. Progress continues on Division Street and other areas. Bi-weekly meetings with FEMA and MEMA have helped reduce the city’s reimbursables from $16 million to $7 million. (To see a two-minute video update on infrastructure work, click here.)

— Keesler gate: Working with state and federal partners, the city has secured $5 million of a $30 million project to construct a new main entrance to Keesler at Division Street. An announcement in forthcoming regarding this project, Gilich said.

— Tidelands funds: Design work is complete on a new ground-level concrete boardwalk that will be constructed at Rodenberg Avenue, south of the row of beachfront restaurants. Residents and visitors should be using the boardwalk within a year, the mayor said, and the city continues to seek Tidelands funds to construct a boardwalk that could eventually stretch from DeBuys Road to Point Cadet and around the Bay to the I-110.

— Garbage and utility fees: The Harrison County mayors and supervisors on the Harrison County Utility Authority are continuing to seek ways to reduce the debt-service fee currently on monthly water bills. The authority is also working to improve service on weekly residential trash pickups contracted through Waste Pro.

— Broadband initiative: The Biloxian Made Good ceremony this week honoring video producer Angela Guice, who is relocating to Biloxi from Los Angeles, illustrates the need for ultra-high speed internet service. Gilich said Guice and her video-game-creating husband are an example of the type firms that rely on affordable broadband service.
See photos from Breakfast with the Mayor
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