Removal of stucco begins on Barq Building

The restoration of Howard Avenue and downtown Biloxi is taking another step this morning as private contractors are removing stucco from the Barq Building in the initial phases of restoring the downtown landmark to its original brick appearance.

As laborers from Gulf Breeze Landscaping crossed the halfway point in the laying of the brick roadway between Reynoir and Lameuse streets as part of a city project, another crew of workers, hired by the new owners of the Barq Building, began removing 1970s-era stucco from the two-story half-block building, which was constructed in 1923.

The Barq Building, named by the Biloxi family that invented Barq’s root beer, was once a thriving collection of retail on its ground floor and offices for dentists, doctors and lawyers on its second floor. It once housed offices for the root beer company. The building’s stately brick faƧade, like most of the buildings in downtown Biloxi, was covered up in the city’s 1970s revitalization effort known as the Vieux Marche.

However, Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich has worked to return the downtown area to its 1950s-era appearance, with plans underway to re-open Howard Avenue to two-way traffic in hopes of spawning new commercial and residential activity downtown.

Enter developers, who purchased the Barq Building, and on Thursday, the city’s Community Development Department issued a demolition permit to Hobbs Construction that limits work to removal of the stucco, framing and roof. Proposed plans for the building have not been formally presented to the Community Development Department. 

“The city’s project to restore Howard Avenue was the spark,” said Biloxi Chief Administrative Officer Mike Leonard, “and what followed was developer interest in the many Howard Avenue properties. The cornerstone of planned redevelopment was the Barq building. And this week the plan became reality as developers closed on the Barq building and filed for a permit to remove the old 1970s faƧade, in keeping with the new Howard Avenue concept.”
Gallery: See photos from today of Barq and Howard Avenue work
Video: See the Barq Building
Video: A whimsical look at Downtown Biloxi