BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Biloxi leaders said a hotel company has closed on a deal to buy a piece of Highway 90 property, and five more are showing interest in building on the beachfront. City officials said they are continuing to look at ways to boost economic development along the beachfront, near I-10, on Pass Road and Downtown.
At a special meeting Tuesday, Biloxi leaders discussed a three part strategy of better traffic flow, tax incentives and beautification.
Cars driving through the Vieux Marche only roll in one direction. Some business owners believe opening the street to two way traffic could make the area more inviting.
"I would hate to see any of the trees and the beauty that is this area go away completely," said Chef Danie, who has a restaurant called Lunch. "But I do think we do need to get it a little bit easier for people to park and get to the businesses."
Better traffic flow is part of Biloxi's strategy to yield greater economic development in all commercial areas of the city, but especially in the Downtown. City leaders said tax abatements are the other big draw they can use to win over developers.
"You give them the incentive to come in, they will come," said Council Member Felix Gines. "We can make a lot of the money off of tax sales, and then once the seven years expire, we will start generating that money. If you bring in business and we become the hot spot, the other people will follow."
Leaders worry potential developers and tourists aren't getting the best impression. Because of concerns about the amount of upkeep Harrison County does along Highway 90, the city administration is proposing that Biloxi start its own beautification crew.
"The maintenance on Highway 90 is very limited. It's just that. It's just maintenance and it must improve. The county is never going to be able to do the level of maintenance that we need to promote the tourism element that we're looking for on Highway 90," said Community Development Director Jerry Creel. "The whole city of Biloxi tends to be judged by what's happening or not happening on Highway 90. If you go to Gulf Shores, if you go to Orange Beach, if you go to Destin, Florida and you look at the way they maintain their main corridor going through town, we need to improve our efforts, too."
Many council members agreed.
Council Member Dixie Newman said, "The sidewalks have been overgrown. We need a crew set for this. That should be their job, basically, to make sure the sidewalks are clean and no litter."
"It needs to look better. When people drive from East Biloxi, coming off the interstate, you want everything to look nice," Council Member George Lawrence said. "You want it to look great."
Gines said, "We need our own beautification group to go out there to make it attractive. These are things that attract people to this area. A beautiful place. Everybody loves to come to a beautiful place."
City officials said they plan to look at what they can do to attract businesses and then set a list of priorities come budget time. The Harrison County Sand Beach director said crews pick up trash along Highway 90 every day Monday through Friday. The director said he hasn't heard any complaints from the city of Biloxi on how the sidewalks and medians are maintained.