Biloxi Boardwalk Casino and other development moving forward

April 1, 2014
By Mary Perez at Sun Herald

BILOXI -- Plans for Biloxi Boardwalk Casino Resort and the extension of Back Bay Boulevard are moving forward, while the council on Tuesday pulled back on the tax incentive provided for a new restaurant downtown.

Bill Kilduff, chief operating officer for Biloxi Boardwalk, said the company interviewed building contractors last week for the East Biloxi casino. Yates Construction, "a great national company that also has headquarters in Biloxi," was chosen and Kilduff said providing local jobs will be a priority.

Earlier this month, Warner Gaming and Hospitality was selected to head the management team for the more than $200 million project.

Kilduff urged the council to complete the Back Bay extension that would complete most of the loop around East Biloxi that never was finished. Chris Ferrara, owner of Boardwalk Biloxi, is among the property owners donating land to the city for the new road.

"Financial markets are very cautious," Kilduff told the council, "and with the possibly challenging location, the Back Bay extension would alleviate this concern."

The Mississippi Development Authority has committed a $5 million grant to extend Back Bay to Fifth Street. Jerry Creel, Biloxi's community development director, said the construction estimate is $4.8 million. The donated land will more than make up the city's 10 percent match of $500,000, Creel said.

"This is going to open the door to a tremendous amount of economic development in that area," he said.

The grant requires a development investment of $70 million, and Creel said the Biloxi Boardwalk Casino plus the planned hotel and other expansions at Margaritaville Casino more than satisfy that requirement.

The council also got an update Tuesday on construction of the minor league baseball stadium. Jason Wold with Yates Construction, project manager for the stadium, said the wood from only two of the more than a dozen trees cut down on the site can be used to repair historic ships. The other Live oak trees were rotten, he said.

Leigh Jaunsen with Dale Partners Architects said in order to fast track the stadium construction and keep it on budget, the project is being bid in six packages.

One of the new businesses that could open near the stadium is Sal & Mookie's New York Pizza and Ice Cream Place. Bruce Lacey and Matt Helms submitted an application in January asking for the full seven-year, 100 percent tax forgiveness on the improved value of the property that was given to other restaurants in that area.

The property has been empty since Hurricane Katrina and Creel said the sales tax generated by the restaurant will more than make up for the tax incentive.

"We're not giving up anything," he said.

The council disagreed and voted 4-3 to give a five-year, graduated incentive, starting at 100 percent the first year and reducing it each year to 25 percent in the fifth year.

Voting for the smaller incentive were George Lawrence, Paul Tisdale, Kenny Glavan and David Fayard. Felix Gines, Dixie Newman and Robert Deming III argued for the full incentive.

Glavan said although Biloxi is pro-business, "this piece of property, very shortly in the future, will be one of the hottest pieces of real estate in Biloxi. You're choosing the right spot."

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