BILOXI -- Kress Live will bring new life to Vieux Marche when the entertainment venue opens this summer.
The building that started as S.H. Kress & Co. "five and dime" store at 814 Howard Ave. in Biloxi and was covered with art two years ago to improve the appearance of the vacant buildings in the once vibrant downtown is now being transformed to host 120 live performances a year.
Chase Taylor and Nick Quave, friends since high school, worked for three years on the concept that combines a stage "with a media system that is second to none," said Taylor; five bars, a recording studio and an American Heritage Museum for Music.
Taylor said another partner from Las Vegas can't yet be identified.
"Every genre of music you know and love; world-class acts from around the world will be coming to Biloxi to play at Kress Live," Taylor said. Blues, rock, classic rock, country, reggae and electronic will be among the types of acts that he said will appeal to all ages.
"You might see comedy on the top floor with dueling pianos on the bottom floor," he said.
He envisions a place where women will feel safe coming in by themselves and young rockers also will feel welcome.
"It's got to be a space for everybody," he said. They plan events for kids, for Cruisin' The Coast, symphonic orchestras, burlesque and theater, and will rent the space for weddings, fashion shows and other functions.
Planning for Kress Live started before Biloxi approved the nearby minor league baseball stadium, but with the stadium helping bring peo
ple downtown, Taylor said they expect 400,000 people at Kress Live every year.
"It's going to change downtown Biloxi atmosphere almost overnight," he said.
The Kress stores were built in downtowns across the country, and he said customers at Kress Live will feel the culture of Biloxi from the exposed bricks and artwork throughout the building. Much of the art on the exterior of the building will move inside. Taylor said they want to return to the building to its original appearance and will use a historic tax credit to complete the work.
The business is expected to create about 50 jobs, he said.
The 20,000-square-foot building will provide space for a "Harts Full of Soul" foundation that will be established to donate musical instruments to local schools and to host academies to teach music. The American Heritage Museum for Music will be an interactive tour where visitors can see the memorabilia and discover the history of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Elvis Presley, Jimmy Buffett and other great musicians from Mississippi.
Harrison County Supervisor Windy Swetman III said Wednesday that it is not an accident that the $2 million investment is being made at Vieux Marche.
"That's because baseball is coming to downtown Biloxi and these are already dollars and already programs and already investors nationwide who are looking at Biloxi, Mississippi and want to be here," he said. "There will be more to come."
Community Development Director Jerry Creel said there is interest in the Mike Hutter building that burned several years ago and other properties at Vieux Marche and more developers looking at properties throughout the downtown since the City Council agreed to build the stadium last week.
-- Sun Herald reporter Patrick Ochs contributed to this report.