Harrison County

City ‘probably knocked lower than anyone’ after Katrina is looking good — and growing

Known for its picturesque harbor, beautiful sunsets and massive live oaks, Pass Christian is growing again. Pass Christian has had one of the highest percentages of change since the 2010 census. With a population of 4,600 in 2010, it has grown 24 percent with an influx of 1,100 new residents, Thursday, June 15, 2017.
Known for its picturesque harbor, beautiful sunsets and massive live oaks, Pass Christian is growing again. Pass Christian has had one of the highest percentages of change since the 2010 census. With a population of 4,600 in 2010, it has grown 24 percent with an influx of 1,100 new residents, Thursday, June 15, 2017. ttisbell@sunherald.com

Things are looking good for the city that “was probably knocked lower than anyone” on the Coast by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, according to its mayor.

The population of Pass Christian is up 24 percent in the last seven years, according to statistics recently released from the U.S. Census Bureau.

And while that still doesn’t put it back to its pre-Katrina 6,800 population, it has a whopping 1,100 more than it registered with the census in 2010.

Congratulations Pass Christian, you’re at 5,700.

And that’s key, considering it is a bedroom community.

But what a bedroom. The homes on Scenic Drive rival the property values of medium-sized businesses.

In fact, Mayor Chipper McDermott said that of the Top 10 property values in the city, according to county assessments, five of them are homes.

Jeff and Amy Steiner had only lived in their renovated house for a year when Katrina leveled it, but they felt compelled to rebuild for the sake of the community. Video by John Fitzhugh/Sun Herald

These are homes on 6- to 8-acre lots, he said, “these aren’t just homes, they’re estates.”

The rebuilding has been steady, but McDermott is quick to point out just how far Pass Christian went down with the storm. The census didn’t even try to estimate the population in the years right after Katrina.

The city is 6 ½ miles long and 1 ½ miles deep – less than 8 square miles, he said, making it the smallest city on the Coast in population and size.

It’s on a peninsula almost surrounded by water. Nature is its biggest attraction and its biggest liability, McDermott said.

“The whole town is a quaint little place,” McDermott said, but it has recently added two boutique hotels in the downtown area.

“That’s 21 rooms we didn’t have 60 years ago,” he said. And the city is knocking at the door of a new 81-door Hampton Inn, a project it has been working on for four years.

The Hampton would extend the downtown west to Market Street, said Dorothy Roberts, owner of Robin’s Nest in the Pass, a specialty store on Davis Avenue.

There are new restaurants and apartments, a new pharmacy and a newly renovated State Farm Insurance building downtown, she pointed out.

She likes working five minutes from where she lives, the upbeat atmosphere of the business community and the little weekend festivals they hold often.

She added “beautiful” and “progressive” to the description, pointing out the harbor and Scenic Drive.

Ted Heroman built his parents a new home in Pass Christian to replace the one that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Video by John Fitzhugh/Sun Herald

She knows the back roads, so she doesn’t get bogged down in traffic. What’s she’s noticed with the influx of new residents is an increase in walkers.

“Our foot traffic is up,” she said. “It’s great to see the number of people walking around the downtown.”

McDermott credits the city’s ties to New Orleans for its continuing growth. He said 40 to 50 percent of the population has ties to the big city.

“As New Orleans goes, so goes Pass Christian,” he said. “They’re building second homes here, I mean second homes on the beach.”

But building is more complicated, as it is elsewhere on the Coast, for property closest to the Mississippi Sound.

Eighty percent of the city is in a flood zone, he said, and Pass Christian homes must be at an 18-foot elevation, minimum. Some place are higher.

“But they are selling some big-time properties around here,” he said, even in areas where there are strict codes for preserving a historic look.

Attorney Henry Laird loves it. He likes being able to walk to a restaurant for dinner. He likes that the schools are some of the best in the state and it has a strong art community.

“We’re close to New Orleans and we get the best of the city, even its people,” he said.

There are people from all over the world who have built second homes there, he said, third and fourth homes.

The race diversity in the population extends to city government, where the city has enjoyed diversity in gender and race over the years. Adding to its diversity is the fact that it has one of the few working, commercial harbors still in existence on the Coast.

It has one of the oldest yacht clubs in the nation, established in 1849, and before Hurricane Camille in 1969, he said, it had the second largest accumulation of historic homes with more than 300 of them on the National Register of Historic Places.

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