New Keesler AFB main gate making progress but existing businesses taking hit

New Keesler AFB main gate making progress but existing businesses taking hit

BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - A lot of people may claim the new Keesler Air Force Base Main Gate as their baby, but Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo" Gilich certainly acts like a proud papa as it starts to grow.

“It’s pretty impressive what’s been done inside the gate and visualize – there’s one huge oak tree that kind of captures the thrust. As you drive in, as future visitors will see that oak tree, that’s sort of a symbol of this area and kind of spreads its glory around," he said.

The $37 million project has been on the table for discussion for more than 15 years, and it broke ground in May 2018.

“It makes me feel really good, you know,” Gilich said. “It’s been talked about, but we’re about ready to deliver this thing.”

The new gate will eliminate a base security concern, help alleviate traffic congestion and provide an economic development corridor for the city of Biloxi.

Ironically, existing businesses are taking a hit.

The city will take big chunks of frontage property along the half-mile stretch to Interstate 110 from businesses like Desporte & Sons Seafood Market and Deli.

Operators of this store said they are having to relocate.

Gary Dronet, owner of Cap Engine Rebuilders, hoped the opening of the new gate would help save his 37-year-old business.

Instead, he sold the shop to the city so it can be demolished.

He said he’s happy the city purchased his building, and it came at a good time.

“About two weeks after my 66th birthday I got a check and that was a good deal,” he said.

He said the new gate would help other kinds of businesses.

“It wouldn’t benefit me that much because my business isn’t a drive by, ‘Hey let me get my motor rebuilt situation.’ People would come find my business, but the location there I would think would be great for a lot of service businesses," Dronet said.

Both Division Street and Keesler Gate facilities have a goal of opening by the spring of 2021.

Copyright 2019 WLOX. All rights reserved.