Jackson County

Food trucks all about ‘growing the pie.’ Ocean Springs mayor talks how to make downtown better.

He already considers Ocean Springs to have the best downtown on the Coast, said Mayor Shea Dobson, and he has plans to make it better.

A crowd filled the Ocean Springs Yacht Club on Wednesday morning to hear his update and see the reveal of new art, created by Ocean Springs’ own Matt Stebly, for the Peter Anderson Festival, the biggest festival in the city, on Nov. 2-3.

Stebly owns Twisted Anchor Tattoo & Art Gallery on Government Street and started working at the Peter Anderson Festival when he was 10 and continues to work at it each year. “It’s a festival named after my great-grand uncle,” he said. “It’s like a holiday in our family.”

Speaking at the Chamber of Commerce Breakfast with the Mayor, Dobson said the Sun Herald had published details of two projects in the city that are in line for possible BP funds.

They include a $26.6 million project by OHOS Development LLC to build a parking garage and mixed-use downtown on the Swingster property at 1515 Government St., where a volunteer center last stood. A $1.8 million project proposes to bring a creative complex across the street from the Walter Anderson Museum of Art.

A new parking garage will help, he said, but more specifically what the city has is a walking issue. “I think it’s healthy if we promote walking,” he said.

He also promoted new business by inviting mobile food vendors to get permitted in the city. Ocean Springs has streamlined the process to operate a food truck, he said, and an area of the downtown has become an unofficial food truck court.

He thinks there is a misconception about food trucks, but said it’s all about “growing the pie” in the downtown.

“I think that’s exactly what the food trucks are going to do,” he said. They compete against Taco Bell and other fast-food places, he said, not the other downtown restaurants.

He also wants to enlarge the footprint of downtown.

“Everybody knows the hub of downtown is Washington and Government,” Dobson said of the streets that mark the downtown business district, but he wants to see it expand out to Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.

Dobson also spoke about other projects: a boat launch coming to the Gulf Coast Research Lab, a dog park opening in about a month, dredging Ft. Bayou, and improving drainage in the area around Bills Avenue, where a developer is demolishing rental homes and building new ones.

The city is growing to the east, he said, and he’s working with Gulf Regional Planning and Development to look at improvements to the southern part of Ocean Springs Road to improve safety, he said.

He also wants to widen Steelman Lane from behind Woody’s Roadside to Papa John’s, where a potential mixed use project could transform that area of the city near the hospital, he said.

Mary Perez is the business and casino reporter for the Sun Herald and also writes about Biloxi, jobs and the new restaurants and development coming to the Coast. She is a fourth-generation journalist.