Mike Hutter still promoting Biloxi Vieux Marche

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A longtime supporter of the Vieux Marche in Biloxi plans to restore a historic building that was ravaged by fire.

The owner of "Spanish Trail Books" took preliminary drawings to the city's development review committee on Wednesday.

Despite losing his bookstore to the huge fire in late January, Mike Hutter remains committed to helping develop and promote downtown.

Fire in late January ravaged the historic building housing Hutter's bookstore, the Upstairs-Downstairs lounge and Adventures bar and grill.

Five months after that devastating fire, the longtime proponent of the Vieux Marche is pursuing plans to rebuild and restore the historic structure.

"Everywhere we can, we're trying to salvage, preserve or restore," he told the city's development review committee.

Hutter presented the committee his project plans. Though the bookstore won't be returning to its previous location, the adjoining lounge will be back, with another restaurant likely to anchor the Adventures location.

Plans call for a courtyard on the west end of the building, an outdoor area adjoining the restaurant and bar.

"We think that might be kind of a catalyst for increased traffic. People coming down there might enjoy that outside environment," said Hutter.

Hutter said increased foot traffic is something the Vieux Marche has needed for years.

He said too often, leaders lack a coordinated vision for the downtown; something he calls engineering mentality.

"We do a heck of a job on a specific project, but sometimes we lose sight of how it affects the guy next door and the landscape and the whole area. So, I'm looking at East Biloxi first and then the Vieux Marche as a unit," he said.

Mike Hutter has long considered the Vieux Marche a picturesque spot a place of promise and possibility. He's hoping his latest project will encourage others to share that vision and invest in downtown Biloxi.

"We're going to forge ahead here pretty soon and see if we can't get some more activity back down on the Vieux where it belongs," he said.

Hutter is hopeful the restoration work can begin in the next few weeks.

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