Waterfront meetings focus on Point Cadet possibilities

“I thought the great thing about it,” says Mayor Andrew ‘FoFo” Gilich of the recent two days of waterfront meetings at City Hall, “is that people came together and talked about the future of the waterfront, especially the vacant land on Point Cadet.”

In fact, it was standing-room-only for the opening gathering at City Hall, where Ann Breen and Dick Rigby, co-directors of The Washington, D.C-based Waterfront Center, presented an hour-long slide show of successful waterfront developments, which prompted an hour-long discussion of the vacant land situated at Biloxi’s easternmost tip.

Among the ideas that were mentioned: an upgrade and expansion of Point Cadet Marina to accommodate more and larger boats; a convention center somewhere in east Biloxi that would be closer to thousands of existing hotel rooms; and a waterfront that would tap into synergy among the existing resorts.

Among those attending besides Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich and members of the City Council were Assistant Secretary of State Raymond Carter; State Reps. Scott DeLano of Biloxi and Hank Zuber of Ocean Springs, and State Sen. Michael Watson of Pascagoula; and dozens of tourism leaders, including representatives of the Golden Nugget and Margaritaville resorts, as well as a host of architects and engineers.

“I certainly believe we have a better opportunity than anybody to create a spot that will be here for 300 more years,” Gilich said. “We want to hear what works. We’ve seen evidence of what works, and I think even if it was a 10-foot boardwalk over the water or picnic benches to eat lunch or areas to fish over the water, people are going to come. The fact is, people want to touch the water, and that’s what this is about: public access and public engagement with the waterfront.”

Kim Ross Bush, an east Biloxi resident and board member of the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum agreed: “What really is a deficit here is that people don’t have access to the waterfront. We need gathering places where people can go sit for hours with their family, with music, food and entertainment. There’s so much room for growth at this gateway, whether it’s food trucks, or music, or an outdoor environment where you can have exhibits that show netmakers or artists doing caricatures.”

Chett Harrison, general manager of Golden Nugget resort, which adjoins Point Cadet Marina, endorsed the idea of a convention center in east Biloxi. The Coast Coliseum and Convention Center, he said, “is a beautiful convention center that’s done very well, but people select where they are going to go for meeting space based on how many hotels are within one mile of the facility.”

Louis Skrmetta, whose Ship Island Excursions began sailing from Point Cadet this summer, said he would like to see Point Cadet Marina expand eastward and use mooring buoys instead of docks, to attract larger transient vessels from across the country.

Said Milton Segarra of Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast: “People like to learn who we are and what we are and they want to do that through different experiences. … Everything starts with the water.”

The next step in the process, Gilich said later, “is to continue the discussion. We need to focus our vision on what will work, and then work toward a consensus among our local and state partners to make it happen.”
Video: See the opening session
Video: See the final session

The easternmost tip of Biloxi’s Point Cadet