A light went off in 1998. With casinos on either end of Caillavet Street, Biloxi realized it had to widen downtown's major north south artery. The city came up with a plan to turn Caillavet into a landscaped boulevard, with sidewalks and trees lining the expanded roadway.
Hal Coats ran one of the Caillavet Street businesses that had to be knocked down and relocated.
"I think it's a great improvement for the area," the paint store manager said.
Coats' new store sits on the north end of Caillavet.
"As far as me moving and relocating, I've got a nice facility," he said. "It's modern. The building I was in was 120 years old."
Biloxi had a few scrapes with property owners over purchase prices before road construction began.
"There were a couple of bumpy roads," laughed Todd Rosetti.
The Quality Seafood manager remembers how his father fought with Biloxi about what his Caillavet Street property was worth. Eventually, both sides found a middle ground.
"We went over it with the planning commission and with A.J. And like I said, we're happy with what the outcome was," the younger Rosetti said.
The outcome is still far from complete. Road work north of Division Street isn't supposed to be done for another four months. The city says what it's done has set the table for economic development opportunities on Caillavet and around east Biloxi.
Merchants say it's given them a pretty good idea of what they can expect in the future.
"It means more business in this area. People are going to use this boulevard," Rosetti said.
There was a time not too long ago when Caillavet Street merchants wondered if the widening work would ever end. Eleven months into construction, a hurricane named Katrina halted the project. Now that it's back on track, business along Caillavet is picking up, just like the city envisioned.
"I have walk-ins coming in," said Coats.
And he thinks that will benefit everybody.
"It's going to help the flow of traffic to and from the different casinos."
The last tree planted along Caillavet Street's new median should be in the ground by March. To widen Caillavet Street, Biloxi had to buy 98 properties.
The city originally budgeted $9 million to rebuild the north south road. Post Katrina construction costs will probably add to the city's final bill.