Proposed road extension expected to spark investments

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Millions of dollars in investments may hinge on making it easier for drivers to get in and out of Biloxi's Point Cadet. The city council voted to apply for state grant money to extend Back Bay Boulevard east.

Two major players on that side of town said the road is badly needed.

The owners of Biloxi Boardwalk Marina and the Hook Up restaurant have already invested $14 million dollars in Point Cadet and their plans are to bring that up to more than $200 million additions that include a casino.

"Also, we own the old Heinz facility we'd like to turn into a large convention center along with a hotel and gaming component with other amenities that would really bring that whole Point Cadet area really to a new light," said Chris Ferrara, owner.

Ferrara said whenever he talks to potential gaming investors the question of improved road access comes up.

Margaritaville is also about to pump millions into building a new hotel, restaurants and retail. But there's one concern: accessibility.

John Cary is NextGen Capital Senior Managing Director. He spoke about the company's plans for Margaritaville.

"We intend in the next 18 months we will have additional shovels in the ground and have a completed project out there," said Cary. "I think if we knew kind of where we were going with this road it could cause us to change some of the plans right now our initial development is in the $50 million to$ 60 million right now."

Back Bay Boulevard dead ends at Oak Street. The state is offering money Biloxi can use to extend east to Pine Street, then south to Fifth Street. Margaritaville is on Fifth Street.

"It's really vitally important for the new road way to take place for this project to happen and also other projects really in the Point Cadet area," said Ferrara. "We really need that Back Bay connector to connect down, and eventually connect all the way down to Highway 90."

Cary said, "When you have more high speed access and you're connecting more with the major thoroughfares where you have a connection point will help with economic development of that area in general. "

"Certainly it enhances the ability for us to create more amenities that will attract more businesses to that market," said Cary.

Cary said he believes better access to Margaritaville would make it easier to find investors. To help make the Back Bay loop happen, the owners of the Hookup and Biloxi Boardwalk Marina have offered to donate more than a million dollars of land.

The Mississippi Development Authority has pledged $5 million toward building a new Bay Back Loop. Details on the total cost of the project have not been finalized. The city must come up with matching funds and meet other requirements are part of the grant.

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