GULFPORT, MS (AP/WLOX) - The City of Biloxi took a different approach to groundbreaking ceremonies for its $1.9 million Howard Avenue construction project Monday. Biloxi Mayor FoFo Gilich picked up a jackhammer and began what the city hopes is the first step in turning the Vieux Marche into what it once was… the heartbeat of downtown Biloxi.
The plan calls for two-way traffic from Reynoir to Lamuese streets, along with more parking, more sidewalks and more incentives to set up shop in that area.
"The developers are asking 'how can I get in'. So, there's more than one of them that have contracts and options on some of the buildings," Gilich said. "So, we feel like it's going pop."
Gilich and others see the project as the catalyst for a larger downtown revitalization project.
"I think we have a really good opportunity to have a really unique Biloxi deal," said Andy Phelan of Pickering Firm. "You never want to be the next Beale Street. you want to be Howard Avenue."
On parts of Howard Avenue, preliminary work has already begun. However, to get to the nine-month completion date, crews will be tearing up the road and possibly causing a few inconveniences in the short term for local business.
"Just hopefully It doesn't take as long as the other roadwork has been, just because it's a high traffic area," said Tracey Stahl, an employee at Sandbar Daquiri Bar & Grill. "Sometimes it does damage to people's cars after driving if they take this road over, and over, and over. But in the long run, I think it should be good."