Business

Sales ‘doubled’ in this Gulfport location. A nationwide auto dealer is moving in now.

CarMax is coming to the Coast and will join Gulfport staple Champion in opening dealerships along what is becoming the city’s newest auto row.

CarMax, which bills itself as the nation’s largest used-car retailer, is expected to open its first Mississippi Coast dealership in 2019 on the north side of Interstate 10 at Mississippi 605. Champion Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram hopes to relocate to the area in 2019 from Pass Road, where the dealership has been in business 20 years.

Both dealerships will be on the west side of 605, facing I-10.

Allen Toyota moved to the east side of 605 north of the interstate at the end of 2010, also from Pass Road.

“It’s been great for us,” principal owner Jonathan Allen said. “Being on the interstate means we get drive-by traffic regularly. Our location is much more visible to everybody in their daily lives. It makes us a regional dealership more than a city dealership.

The result?

“Since we moved out here, our sales business has more than doubled and our parts and service business has more than quadrupled,” Allen said.

The dealerships are buying their land from DDR, which develops and manages commercial property nationwide, including Crossroads Center in Gulfport.

Target had considered locating off 605 when DDR was marketing its 80 acres there as one property. In the last couple of years, real estate agent and DDR representative Scott Delano said, DDR has started considering offers for individual parcels.

Breaking up the acreage south of Dedeaux Road allowed the car dealerships to move in. DDR also has its 39 acres north of Dedeaux Road listed for sale.

The City Council on Tuesday is expected to approve a financing arrangement that will allow DDR and the two dealerships to borrow money for the extension of Helen Richards Drive to the dealerships. A portion of sales taxes from the businesses will be pledged toward repayment.

The extension will include sidewalks, a bike path, lighting and landscaping, said city Urban Development Director Greg Pietrangelo.

Eventually, but not in this phase, the city plans to link Helen Richards with Dedeaux Road, which is being widened.

Pietrangelo said the dealerships are opening at the interstate and 605 for three big reasons: “Traffic, traffic, traffic.”

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