BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The City of Biloxi is working to bring more foot traffic in downtown Biloxi. Officials said the best way to accomplish that is to develop more housing in the area.
Biloxi Community Development Director Jerry Creel said the city is working closely with developers to get the ball rolling.
“First of all, when we put together our land development ordinance, we got it adopted back in 2010. It allows residential above the first floor as a use by right,” said Creel. “So, a lot of these buildings in the downtown area, you don’t have to go through any kind of a special approval process in order to have those apartments located upstairs. You bring in the plans, we review them, if they comply with code then we’ll issue a permit for you to move forward.”
Creel said the city is also offering financial assistance for downtown housing projects, however, one must be able to meet the qualifications.
“Another thing that we’ve done too is that we provide a grant opportunity for creating residential in downtown. The grant says that if you, let’s say you build new units that were not on the inventory before building new units, then they should be eligible for the grant. Also, if you take a commercial building that was used for commercial purposes and you convert it over to residential where you’re creating new units, then those should be eligible,” said Creel. “
He also said if you take existing residential units that have been vacant for over a year, and you want to reactivate those, then they would qualify. The grant covers up to $25,000 per unit, depending on how much you make the project comply with the downtown design standards like Main Street.
“Main Street is actually kind of the conduit where these applications go through to get a review and then ultimately, it’s the mayor and the council that approved the applications,” said Creel.
Creel believes that having more housing downtown will enhance the city economically.
“Let’s say you’re taking a vacant building, and you’re actually creating living units again, you know automatically that increases your tax revenues for those buildings because you’ve improved it up to a different level,” said Creel. “We have restaurants downtown. They will benefit from it by having those people that will come there to eat at night and on the weekends. We’ve got shopping opportunities downtown, it opens up the same door for them to be able to enjoy that.”
Creel also said a couple of housing projects coming up are apartments on Howard Avenue and townhomes on Caillavet Street.
We’re told construction for apartments on Howard Avenue will start by the end of the year.