LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - In the coming weeks, the appearance of downtown Long Beach will be improving dramatically. The old senior center on Jeff Davis Avenue is undergoing a makeover. And that's good news for a city still trying to lure back businesses more than nine years after Hurricane Katrina.
Work is continuing at a furious pace to bring the old building back to life. A new restaurant is about to open, and a children's boutique is up and running already.
"I think it's contagious," said nearby business owner Melissa Fischer. "When people start moving in, other businesses want to move in around them, and that creates more businesses and more traffic here for Jeff Davis Avenue."
The building was last used as a senior center just before Katrina struck in August of 2005. Then it was almost completely gutted out and damaged severely.
"It became a blight," said Mayor Billy Skellie. "It was unattended and ended up in some litigation about ownership and so forth, so it sat dead in the water here up until last year. So this is great to get this done."
Anticipation is building in downtown for business owner Kathleen Kozlowski.
"I'm really excited about it. I think it's a great idea to restore some of Long Beach history and bring more businesses in and promote more jobs here in town," Kozlowski explained.
And speaking of work, the town's teenagers are looking for it, according to another business owner, Eileen McCool.
"They're wanting to get a job. They want to work locally. They want to contribute to Long Beach, but there's just not that many jobs," McCool said. "The more businesses that come to Long Beach, the more jobs for everyone, including teenagers."
Even the city library across the street could see a benefit from the new shopping plaza.
"We see a lot of people walking up and down the streets every day. A lot of them come in the library to check their email and stuff on the computers. I think it's great. I think it's going to be wonderful," said Library Director Jeannie Ripoll.
In addition to the sushi restaurant and boutique that will operate in the building, there is enough space for several more businesses to open up shop.