October 3, 2015
By Mary Perez at Sun Herald
Photo by Justin Mitchell at Sun Herald
BILOXI -- It's been talked about for years, and now a plan for completing the loop in East Biloxi will go to the City Council on Tuesday for approval.
The loop around East Biloxi is about three-quarters complete and the plan Mayor Andrew "FoFo" Gilich will propose Tuesday would finish the east side all the way from Back Bay Boulevard down a widened Pine Street to U.S. 90.
The prize for the city would be its ninth casino -- Foxwoods Resort Casino at Biloxi Pointe -- at the end of Eighth Street.
The Mississippi Gaming Commission gave property owner Chris Ferrara site approval in June 2012. The Louisiana businessman proposes building a $260 million casino on the 37-acre site of the former Heinz pet-food plant.
The design would have the look and feel of Old Biloxi but with modern amenities such as a casino with a fantasy sports lounge, a 497-room hotel, spa and fitness center, sports bar, a buffet and five other dining options, a 70,000-square-foot casino event center to host conventions and entertainment, and a combination bowling alley and shuffle board space.
What he needs now is access.
The cost of finishing the loop is expected to be about $22 million. Under the new plan, Ferrara will contribute $7 million and the rights of way for construction.
The resort is expected to create 2,000 jobs and generate $4 million a year in tax revenue to Biloxi. The city, in turn, would grant the developer 100 percent property-tax abatement for seven years, except for school taxes. Biloxi also would pay about $9 million to complete the road.
"We certainly want to light up this site and the Pine Street corridor with commercial activity, jobs and entertainment," Gilich said, "but we're going to make sure that all of the funding is in place from all of the parties involved."
Two years ago, the City Council voted to apply for a $5.6 million grant to extend the road from Back Bay Boulevard to Fifth Street. At that time, Bill Kilduff, chief operating officer of the proposed casino resort, said without the road work the casino won't happen.
The new proposal would finish the additional mile of loop along Pine Street, which ends just north of Third Street and picks up again just south of Seventh Street.
The $5.6 million grant from Mississippi Development Authority comes with the requirement that $70 million worth of development follow the road within five years. When first proposed, a hotel tower at Margaritaville Casino was factored into the local match, but that property has since closed. The new casino would meet the required investment.