Hotel construction stirs up excitement in downtown Biloxi

Hotel construction stirs up excitement in downtown Biloxi
The Watermark hotel is actually a renovation of the old Santa Maria Del Mar retirement home. (Photo source: WLOX)
The Watermark hotel is actually a renovation of the old Santa Maria Del Mar retirement home. (Photo source: WLOX)

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The sounds of construction fill the air in downtown Biloxi these days. When the work is over, it could mean a lot more visitors coming to the coast to see what we have to offer. That has downtown business owners smiling.

The old Santa Maria Del Mar retirement home, vacant since Hurricane Katrina, is being renovated into a luxury high rise Watermark property.  Next door, a Hilton Garden Inn is under construction. A few blocks to the west, a La Quinta Hotel will be built on the corner of Hopkins Blvd. and Hwy. 90.

That means charter boat captains could soon be reeling in more business. One of them is Mark Compton.

"Well, I think it's great for this marina and everything else. It's going to really help," Compton said.

With hundreds of additional guests staying downtown, the Biloxi tour train could be full most of the time. Carla Beaugez-Taconi operates the tourist attraction.

"Well, it makes me feel great. It's been a long time coming, and I'm just thrilled that there's going to be new amenities for the people to come to Biloxi. And, of course, the opportunity for us to showcase the beautiful history of our town to people who come," said Beaugez-Taconi.

The dining room at McElroy's Harbor House Restaurant could be full every day, according to owner Mickey McElroy.

"Well, it's just going to be a tremendous plus, as far as we're concerned. The coast is growing left and right, and we're experiencing tremendous growth right here," McElroy explained.

In addition to the three hotels being built, a Hyatt Place hotel just opened seven months ago, and rooms fill up fast. Leslie Herrington is the manager.

"Here, as opposed to the corporate traveler, which is typically what a Hyatt Place would see, we see a lot of leisure business here, which is great because we know it's bringing revenue to the entire City of Biloxi," Herrington said.

While downtown business owners are waiting with anticipation for these new hotel properties to open up, they also anticipate something else, although that's a good problem to have, according to McElroy.

"When we continue to add hotels and restaurants, and things like that, you have to have places for people to park. So, we're restricted in certain areas where we don't have the land mass. But, we need to do something with it," said McElroy.

That answer may come in the near future.

Currently, Biloxi has more than 7,300 hotels rooms. When the new properties open sometime next year, that total will be close to 8,000.

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