Local businesses chime in about the Howard Avenue project

Local businesses chime in about the Howard Avenue project
A backhoe sits behind a pile of rubble on Howard Ave (Source: WLOX)

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It's been about four weeks since the first jackhammer went into the ground on Howard Avenue.

The road project is causing drivers to take another way to get around the work, but business in the area seem to be doing fine.

"Since they've closed down I haven't really seen a change in business either way. It's made it a little difficult for me to have to ride through it every morning when I'm coming from the other side of town," said Hiram McCall, who works in downtown Biloxi.

"With it being a one-way road for so long, all the locals have been acclimated to traveling around the Vieux Marche, so we haven't been negatively impacted. We're actually looking forward to the new two way road and the additional access that it will bring," said Erin Valencia, owner of Zeppelin Pizzeria.

It will bring additional access and additional customers. Years ago, the Vieux Marche along Howard Avenue used to be a booming place. Life-long residents are happy to see life return in the heart of Biloxi. "Being out on this corner for nine years, we've kind of watched everything come up around us. Each piece seems like a piece of the puzzle. Putting it all together with the street opening up and the bank being built at the same time...and two hotels, it's really making downtown a whole different place," McCall said.

Many people, including Mayor FoFo Gilich, have said this is the project that will revitalize downtown and essentially make it a magnet, drawing people and businesses to the Vieux Marche. Some may say that's hard to imagine when a main road is torn up, but if you look beyond the torn up street and the equipment and focus what's to come, then you begin to see the end result.

"I think it's exciting, it's very exciting. I think it's going to create more of a downtown feel which is needed in this area hopefully it'll invite people to park and walk in travel and really venture out you know going to visit all these businesses," Valencia said.

Wider streets, more parking spots, and plenty of opportunity for new business. This part of the city can be described at best: "a diamond in the rough." "I know when it opens up it's going to change the whole scope of things," said McCall.

Only a few more months of scraping and polishing until Howard Avenue will be the crown jewel of downtown once more. Gilich compared it to Beale Street in Memphis.

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