Vieux Marche Merchants Ready For Improvements

On Monday, Biloxi will demolish the rotting comfort station that sits near the center of Vieux Marche. The group Main Street Biloxi believes that's the first step in a long process to bring downtown back to life. Its director is Bill Raymond.  He said removing the comfort station "shows a commitment to downtown, that people want to come down here and want to do things down here."

If more people walk through Vieux Marche it would help places like Java Joe's Coffee House.  Dr. Hank Roberts owns the restaurant.  He said, "It's successful because the people who work right in this area don't have to drive in and park to come in here to eat. If it had not been for that, we would have had to close a long time ago. We don't have parking."

How bad is the parking problem in Vieux Marche? Well at lunchtime, Adventure's Bar and Grill keeps its front door locked. For the past year, there's been a sign on the door. It says that because of inadequate parking, the restaurant eliminated its daytime hours. Restaurant manager Nancy Mallery said, "In the daytime we couldn't do it. We tried and we couldn't do it."

Temporary parking relief may have arrived this week when Biloxi Regional Medical Center opened its parking garage.  Dr. Roberts believes "it will help in relieving some of the parking situation. And I think it's a great thing that the hospital has done by putting it over there. But it's not the solution."

To the restaurant owner, the solution is for the city to open Vieux Marche to two-way traffic and to create more parking right in front of neighborhood buildings. He thinks a new clock tower and a new Main Street landscaping plan can return downtown Biloxi to its past glory.

After Biloxi tears down the empty Vieux Marche comfort station, it will turn its attention to the golden fisherman. In a few months, the city, the county and the Biloxi Bay Chamber plan to move the statue to the seafood museum at Point Cadet.