Building up the coast

Hotels, attractions, restaurants under construction

September 6, 2015
By Mary Perez at Sun Herald

Construction cranes are back on the horizon in South Mississippi, bringing the promise of more places to stay and play. The Scarlet Pearl Casino and Academy Sports in D’Iberville and the conversion of Casino Magic in Biloxi into a resort with a water park are very visible. What isn’t as evident without a broader look are new banks and hotels under construction across the Coast, new restaurants opening and more family attractions on the way.

Big Play Family Fun Park had been the only miniature golf course near the beach since Hurricane Katrina. But now the grand opening of Bananas Mini-Golf and Arcade on East Pass Road in Gulfport this weekend will give customers a chance to try a new 18-hole course, with waterfall and fountains, an arcade and a frozen yogurt shop.

And 10 years after Katrina destroyed Fun Time USA, the Gulfport amusement park is making a comeback. The owners announced in August the original merry-go-round, along with bumper boats and other family attractions, could open by May.

A championship miniature golf course is under construction at the Scarlet Pearl, which is scheduled to open by the end of the year, and the Mississippi Sound amusement park is proposed off Mississippi 67 in Biloxi.

More places to shop

"Along the Gulf Coast and South Mississippi in general I believe there is renewed activity and interest," said Brooks Holstein, managing member of COMVEST Properties in Biloxi. Last month, he sold the Office Depot building in Pascagoula to a New York investor who was seeking a 5 percent higher yield on his investment than he can find in New York, Holstein said.

COMVEST has created a database of potential investors and brokers, and Holstein said, “We’ve probably got over 10,000 names we send the information out to.”

And his firm isn’t waiting for investors to knock on the door. “We’re the hunter, not the hunted,” he said. He’s still looking for the right person to operate the restored White Pillars restaurant in Biloxi so it becomes a landmark property for the community again. Two or three qualified prospects are looking, he said.

His company recently leased space at the Centre at Courthouse in Gulfport for a Shoe Show store, and signed a lease with Petco to open its second store in South Mississippi at the Shoppes of Popp’s Ferry in Biloxi.

Despite the still-empty Wal-Mart and Kmart buildings on Pass Road in Biloxi and Gulfport, Holstein said his company was able to show retailers Pass Road is still the east-west corridor for most shoppers who live and work near the coastline. Wal-Mart showed the vitality of West Biloxi after it closed its small store on Pass Road, he said, by opening a superstore 1.5 miles to the west and a Neighborhood Market 1.5 miles to the east.

Kenneth Jones, a commercial real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Alfonso Real Estate, recently sold the 27-site Mabry’s Red Barn RV Park off U.S. 49 in Gulfport to Lamar Anderson, who had retired and moved to South Mississippi two years ago.

“I had to kick retirement to the curb,” Anderson said. He is converting the 5.5-acre site into an antiques and consignment center with a focus on farm and country items — antique tractors, wagons, porch swings and other metal and wood items — that can be used in landscape design. They will be staged under the oaks and inside the store. “We’ll have dozens of consignors and vendors who sell this type of merchandise,” he said.

Coast clear for development

The strongest commercial sales are in multi-family homes and retail, said Brian Bolis, a commercial real estate broker and senior adviser with NAI Sawyer in Gulfport. The weakest segments are offices and vacant land on the water.

“As you can see, along the beach there’s just an awful lot of cavities there,” he said. “It may be a generation before it’s filled in.”

Bolis recently sold two parcels in downtown Gulf- port to the city to be part of the proposed aquarium, and a parcel on U.S. 90 in Biloxi just east of Hooters that will become another location for Woody’s Roadside Tavern.

“We are about 90 percent complete on our plans,” said general manager Jeff Glouner, who operates Woody’s Roadside in Ocean Springs with Danny Chinn and Kevin Williams. They hope construction of the $3 million restaurant can begin in about 60 days.

Glouner said they’ve wanted to get into the Biloxi mar ket, which was made more desirable by the Shuckers baseball team and the opening of MGM Park, but they don’t want to be too close to the Ocean Springs location on U.S. 90 near Ocean Springs Road.

“That will be our second store,” he said of Biloxi, and noted additional locations are being considered.

With hundreds of empty and abandoned waterfront lots for sale in South Mississippi and elsewhere, Bob Davidge just launched Waterfront Liquidators, a website that promotes only beachfront properties.

“We have dilapidated and faded for-sale signs nailed over previous signs, hidden in the overgrown grass at some of the premier properties on the Gulf Coast, available at bargain prices,” he said.

Most of the interest so far is coming from the Northeast, he said, where another brutal winter is in the weather forecast. Investors and real estate agents are using the site to find properties for sale by owner, through Multiple Listing Service and rental properties. Those who go to the properties can scan the smart-code on the for-sale signs and go directly to the website for information. “There are bargains,” he said.

Going up in South Mississippi

Some of the Coast development projects under construction or recently opened: Academy Sports, D’Iberville Arbor Landing Apartments, Biloxi Baja Beach Biloxi Bananas Mini-Golf & Arcade, Gulfport Beau Rivage Resort & Casino new high-limits room, Biloxi Biloxi Lugger Restaurant, Biloxi Boomtown Biloxi Casino RV Park Casino Magic conversion to hotel and water park, Biloxi Charter Bank, Ocean Springs Hyatt Place Hotel, Biloxi IP Casino parking lot expansion, Biloxi Jimmy John’s Restaurant, Biloxi Office Depot in Pascagoula sold Petco, Biloxi Scarlet Pearl Casino, D’Iberville Sheraton Four Points Hotel conversion to Doubletree, Biloxi Shoe Show store, Gulfport Silver Slipper Casino, hotel suites, Hancock County Tulane University moving to Edgewater Village, Biloxi Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, Gulfport Woody’s Roadhouse Tavern, new Biloxi location

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