Coast Losing Hotel Rooms To Condo Development

Salvage crews rummaged through a Highway 90 lot and gobbled up debris from what used to be the $19.95 a night Sunkist Motel. They sifted through the rubble almost as fast as a condo developer gobbled up the valuable Highway 90 property.

A realtor says the former motel site could become an eight story Sea View Condomimium.

Steve Richer sees it as another perk for the coast.

"I think it's going to make us a much better destination," the Harrison County Tourism Director said.

Richer once begged for more hotel rooms, because that's how he felt coast tourism would make its biggest splash. Now, there's a lengthy list of 3,000 hotel rooms that could be torn down -- a list that includes the famed Broadwater Resort, a frequent overnight stop for the Hernandez family.

"You see those trees and all that stuff, it won't be here anymore," Milton Hernandez said from the Broadwater pool. "You'll have one or two stuck here and there, but the rest will be gone. The whole feeling will be gone."

Not so, said Harrison County's tourism director.

"We're going to see a lot of things that made the coast the coast preserved," he said, "while at the same time bringing in a really interesting mix of new architecture that's going to make us a spectacular destination over the next several years."

Richer said demolishing old motels for new condos was a big step toward that ultimate vision.

"If that continues to move along, we're going to be giving birth here to an important new national, if not international destination," he said.

From all indications, the coast could grow from 18,000 hotel rooms to 30,000 hotel and condo units in a matter of years.

According to the state tax commission, if somebody rents a condo for less than 90 days, that person must pay the same taxes a hotel charges. So, funding for projects like the coliseum expansion shouldn't be lost in Harrison County's transition from hotels to condos.