BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Vieux Marche in Biloxi is making a comeback. The area was once a booming part of town, but for years now "for rent" and "for sale" signs have hung in many of the buildings. Now new places are opening up and new projects are in the works.
The gutted building that was once home to Upstairs-Downstairs club has sat vacant for two years since it burned. Biloxi Main Street President Cliff Kirkland said it has been sold to a developer who plans to build a six story building with condos, retail space and a restaurant.
"We do want to see more residential development, obviously, downtown," Kirkland said. "It will help encourage more developers to open new businesses, and we need some retail development. So we definitely see a new energy coming to the area."
Two new venues are already starting to breathe life back into Vieux Marche.
Chase Taylor, the owner of Kress Live, said, "We've had some really incredible events where two or three in the morning I'm looking around and there's food trucks all around downtown, and there's people that are just happy go lucky, cruising the streets. It's not crime ridden; it's just a different vibe."
After the Proposal Weddings & Events Owner Jean McGrury agrees with Taylor, and wants to see more businesses around them, but they believe the problem is cost. To rent one vacant space across from McGrury's office, the owner is asking $4,500 a month.
"Don't look to get rich off this first deal," Taylor said. "Hope to just progress, get a good business in there that will stabilize and stay there long term."
"Also, because some of the buildings are so large, they are not willing to subdivide," McGrury said. "If the owners of the buildings would be a lot more flexible, I could see a lot more businesses coming into the area."
Another deterrent is Vieux Marche is only one way, but Main Street board members are currently looking for grant funding to turn the road into two lanes. The project is estimated to cost around $5 million.
"The stadium, of course, has definitely spurred interest," Kirkland said. "We are not in the middle of a gold rush right now, but there's a lot of prospecting going on. There's a lot more discussion of development downtown."
Kirkland believes it is only a matter of time before View Marche is again a vibrant part of Biloxi.