Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich, always a numbers man, said Thursday he is in his 18th month in office and “I expect surprises.”
Speaking at the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce Breakfast with the Mayor at Merit Health Center, Gilich is more comfortable at the podium than he was 18 months ago. He joked with the crowd as he gave a rundown of economic development projects and talked about his vision for Biloxi as a gigabyte city, where entrepreneurs will have ultra-high speed internet they need and a less expensive yet appealing quality of life they want.
New hotels and restaurants continue to open in Biloxi, he said, including a restaurant opening Monday on Main Street. It’s Patio 44 — “I like to say Patio FoFo,” he joked.
He announced that the city was issuing a building permit Thursday for Watermark hotel in the former Santa Maria del Mar senior apartments tower. The Barrington Group is transforming what has been an empty shell since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 into a $12 million all-suites hotel in the downtown, across from the Small Craft Harbor.
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Barrington continues to talk with Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann on leasing tidelands for a $140 million family resort adjacent to Margaritaville Resort Biloxi, he said. Plans call for a $13 million Ferris wheel, an amusement park and two more hotels. Gilich said he is trying to do more family-oriented recreation in Biloxi and, “Margaritaville was just the start of that.”
A $1.6 million boardwalk near Restaurant Row in Biloxi is being built as a joint project with Harrison County and should be ready within a year, he said.
The city also is developing a waterfront plan and Gilich said “our goal is to have that whole waterfront experience.”
Gilich also reported:
▪ Biloxi is just a few agreements away from starting engineering work on a Division Street entrance to Keesler Air Force Base.
▪ He and his staff meet bi-weekly with FEMA and MEMA to make sure the money for the $365 million infrastructure project flows. At one time, the city was owed $15 million to $16 million in payments, he said, and that’s now down to $7 million. “I drive the streets every day to see where they are, what progress has been made,” he said.
▪ Infrastructure work in areas of East Biloxi south of the railroad tracks won’t be as chaotic as the areas north of the railroad tracks, he said, since work on a new section won’t start until the previous section is 75 percent complete.
▪ Near complete is the widening of Popp’s Ferry Road in North Biloxi. “We hope to be cutting that ribbon by the end of the year, certainly,” he said.