Developer set to renovate storm damaged Santa Maria Del Mar
BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - When it comes to the Santa Maria Del Mar, these are the words people in Biloxi have been waiting nearly a decade to hear. They come from the Vice President of Barrington Development, Cono Caranna.
"We made the offer to purchase the building. Everything should be finalized tomorrow. We're still very premature in the design aspect of the building, so we're still trying to develop what it's going to end up as," Caranna said.
There is a hint as to what it will become.
"We're looking to bring back a hotel," said Caranna.
Barrington Development is the same company that bought and refurbished the White House Hotel, which sat vacant for decades. So why the Santa Maria?
"It just became available," Caranna explained. "It's been something that we've been looking at for a little while, and as soon as it became available, we went ahead and snagged it up."
As you can imagine, city officials have become increasingly frustrated over the past nine years dealing with the building, dealing with code enforcement, dealing with the frustrations of surrounding property owners.
Now, they are absolutely elated with this news. Jerry Creel is the city's Community Development Director.
"You can't imagine how excited we are about it. You know, it's one of the two remaining blighted buildings on the Coast, in Biloxi, and we've been working on it for a long time," Creel said.
He added the deal also means something else for the city.
"As an upscale hotel, we'll get a tremendous boost from tax revenues as a part of it," said Creel.
At downtown businesses, like the Fillin' Station Restaurant, optimism runs high for manager and Chef Charles Shirley.
"I think it will be a great asset to the downtown area. A lot of business. A lot of new people. A lot of excited people to have that place finally filled up," Shirley said.
People who ride the Biloxi Historic Tour Train won't have to have the eyesore explained to them much longer, according to operator Carla Beaugez-Taconi.
"I think it's wonderful. Many, many people that come by do ask about the building, and we've been hopeful for it. I'm delighted to hear this information. I think it's a plus for Biloxi. It's a plus for the building," Beaugez-Taconi exclaimed.
Not to mention a plus for the appearance of downtown.
For seniors who once called the Santa Maria home, they now live in a new complex built by the Catholic Diocese in North Biloxi off Popps Perry Road.
Copyright 2014 WLOX. All rights reserved.