Harrison County

D'Iberville working plan for downtown housing

JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD/FILEThe Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort is a central part to D'Iberville's vision of bringing compact housing to downtown, where residents can walk to their jobs at the casino or ride a bus to Keesler Air Force Base or other employment.
JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD/FILEThe Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort is a central part to D'Iberville's vision of bringing compact housing to downtown, where residents can walk to their jobs at the casino or ride a bus to Keesler Air Force Base or other employment. SUN HERALD

D'IBERVILLE -- Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, residential areas near the city's developing downtown remain mostly empty lots, but D'Iberville officials plan to fill it with new housing choices.

The next step comes this week at two meetings to describe plans for bringing housing and people to the area surrounding Central Avenue, which the city has been trying to develop as its downtown.

City Planner Jeff Taylor said the city and its partners envision smaller units to invite millennials who want to be downtown and baby boomers who no longer want or need a big house and yard. Tenants could walk to the casino, shops and restaurants, and easily ride the bus to work or attractions.

Laurie Volk, a housing marketing analyst, described the concept in 2008 when D'Iberville was putting together its strategic plan.

"People are really looking for more pedestrian neighborhoods," she said, and more choices in housing. Only one in four homeowners in D'Iberville is a married couple with children, she said at the time. Single women and men purchase just as many homes in the country as married couples, yet 61 percent of the housing is single-family detached homes -- 67 percent in D'Iberville.

The city and Coast Transit Authority, which operates a transit hub just off Central on Rodriguez Street, partnered to create the Transit Oriented Development Plan and pooled money to fund the next steps.

Volk continues to work on the vision for downtown and on Wednesday she and city officials will meet with stakeholders of the project to identify the boundaries of the study area and discuss specific needs.

At 6 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, Volk will describe the plan to the general public.

"The purpose of this meeting is to invite the citizens and property owners, business leaders and other interested parties to hear a refresher presentation from Laurie Volk regarding demographic trends, and hear an overview of the planning process," Taylor said.

The new Scarlet Pearl Casino in D'Iberville is central to the plans since many of it's employees would be want to live downtown, close to work, he said.

"There's a large market for returning to the interior of the cities but in more compact way," he said. The high prices for property near the waterfront and downtown are absorbed by allowing the density to go up, he said, and he sees that area of D'Iberville becoming a lot like a college campus.

The new plan will allow those who own small, empty home lots to combine their land, sell their properties and help create a new type of neighborhood, he said.

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