Howard Ave. roadwork delayed; should be completed in August

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Howard Avenue is one of Biloxi's richest architectural neighborhoods.  For almost a year, it's been getting a facelift.  In the process, old trolley tracks that once ran along Howard Avenue in east Biloxi have been dug up.  They're being replaced by new sidewalks, brick crosswalks, and underground power lines.

This is a project that started last September.  Originally, contractors expected the new Howard Avenue to open in May.  However, they ran into a variety of utility issues buried below the surface.  Consequently, the completion date got pushed back a few months.

For Richard Blanchard, the restoration project has been "a little bit of a nightmare.  But we just keep looking behind the clouds.  And we're going to have a nice beautiful road, with trees and lights."

Blanchard's family has lived in his Howard Avenue home for half a century.  Katrina tore it apart.  A rebuilding grant let him rebuild it.  Over the last month, Blanchard has been dodging sidewalk construction to move furniture back into the house.

"It's a whole lot of fun to try and climb over the hills and the holes to drag a 200 pound piece of furniture into the house," he said.

Bill Parrott lives in the colorful historic home across the street.  This week, the sidewalk team is in front of his white picket fence.

"Based on what we had before Katrina and right after Katrina, it's great," said Parrott

Redoing six blocks of Howard Avenue is a $3.5 million project paid for with CDBG money.  The utility work linked to the project put construction teams about three months behind schedule.  And that created a few inconveniences for Howard Avenue neighbors.

"It has been a real challenge.  But we're up to it," said Blanchard.

Parrott noted just one problem for the community.

"Probably the only downside is we're going to lose the parking in front of the house," he said.

Fortunately, he said, most Howard Avenue homeowners have parking access behind their houses.

With the utility work just about done, sidewalk crews can frame the concrete and brick walkways.  Mayor Holloway says the new Howard Avenue will be an attractive streetscape, and an inviting entrance to east Biloxi.  Parrott likes how that sounds.

"Based on the lights and the trees we're talking about, this is going to be gorgeous.  I think this will be the showplace for Biloxi now," he said.

When the Howard Avenue construction work is done, the roadway is expected to compliment the city's new civic center.  It's about to be built on Howard Avenue, right across the street from the Biloxi Community Center.

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