BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The Biloxi City Council voted Wednesday to sell about an acre of surplus land on Caillavet Street. The land is in the heart of downtown, just blocks from multi-million dollar casinos and MGM Park.
So why did the city sell land valued at $200,000 for $30,000?
Well, once upon a time, this stretch of Caillavet Street was going to be the Grand Boulevard leading from one casino to another, packed with businesses along the way.
“Look at one end, IP. Look at the other end, Beau Rivage, and a Grand Boulevard in between,” said Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich. “Ready to go, no infrastructure needed, you tie right into things. It’s still there and that pent up. We’re still having inquiries every day.”
The city bought 98 parcels of land on Caillavet Street in the early 2000s to make the widening possible, leading to many arguments over the value of the land and existing businesses.
On Wednesday, the city council approved the sale of eight of those parcels for a fraction of their assessed values. The city’s hope is that an inexpensive sale price, with a promise to build, will create guaranteed tax revenues where there are none now.
“It’s all six of one, a half a dozen of the other, but the bottom line is development,” Gilich said.
A previous plan for the land fell through. Now BBH LLC is buying the lots.
Development Partner Matthew Mestayer said it’s the right land at the right price at the right time.
“It’s for everyday working-class people. It’s what Biloxi was built on. We’re trying to get people to come and live back to downtown Biloxi where they belong,” Mestayer said.
There was much hope for the future of Caillavet Street in 2006 as the widening project was being completed. That plan along with the Biloxi loop concept never materialized, but the mayor said patience is key to success.
“The long game is to get development going to generate many years of taxes and other revenues,” Gilich said.
Gilich points to the 19,000 casino jobs in Biloxi and the idea of bringing those employees closer to where they work
“And that’s our bottom line is to get people living down close. Live, work and play down here,” he said.
A condition of the sale is that construction begins on at least two of the proposed homes within a year of the sale and any lots not developed in three years will be deeded back to the city.