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A casino isn’t in the cards for Margaritaville

Barrington Development plans to transform the former Santa Maria senior apartments into a boutique hotel in downtown Biloxi. The developers are requesting a zoning change on the land west of Dukate Street as part of the project.
Barrington Development plans to transform the former Santa Maria senior apartments into a boutique hotel in downtown Biloxi. The developers are requesting a zoning change on the land west of Dukate Street as part of the project. meperez@sunherald.com

Margaritaville Resort Biloxi opened in June without a casino and the owners intend to keep it that way — a casino-free family resort — under a zoning change proposed Thursday.

“We clearly need more family-oriented attractions,” said city attorney Gerald Blessey, who represented Biloxi in asking for the zoning change.

Margaritaville and the city-owned parking lot between it and Golden Nugget Casino are part of the zoning change that includes land along the waterfront west of Margaritaville and north of U.S. 90 between St. Michael Catholic Church and Harrah’s Gulf Coast.

The Planning Commission approved the rezoning request and the application now goes to the City Council.

“It hasn’t been developed since Katrina,” Blessey said of the combined 17.5 acres and 20 tax parcels being rezoned.

Planning Commissioner Joann Humphries asked Blessey if the city has anything specific in mind for the area.

“There have been opportunities suggested to the mayor but we’ll have to wait and see,” Blessey replied.

Barrington Development transformed the former Casino Magic, empty since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and expanded it to create Margaritaville Resort. It opened with 373 hotel rooms and suites, several restaurants, an indoor entertainment center and an outdoor waterpark.

Barrington also restored the historic White House Hotel, which had been closed on the beach in Biloxi for decades, and now is planning to turn the remains of the former Santa Maria del Mar senior housing tower into a luxury hotel.

“We’re still working out the plans,” said Cono Caranna, spokesman for Barrington.

The hotel on U.S. 90 at Main Street across from the harbor and the Biloxi Town Green will have 154 suites. The developers said it will be a boutique hotel instead of a national chain.

The Planning Commission approved a request to combine 3 acres adjacent to the Santa Maria into the project and rezone the land to Community Business. It now must be approved by the City Council.

Also approved Thursday were variances to allow a 78-unit La Quinta Hotel to be built on U.S. 90 west of Hopkins.

Wayne Hengen, attorney for Crossgate Hotel Group, said the developers had been faced with the challenge of designing the building around the trees on the north side and the high-water line on the south side.

“They’ve been able to successfully do it,” he said.

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