The west end of Porter Avenue is becoming an alternative to the expensive downtown area.
It’s growing, Ocean Springs leaders and business owners say, and a street redesign and the water-line update — put off four years ago — are now badly needed.
And it looks like that’s going to happen.
Aldermen are now on board pledging $50,000 for the city’s part of a $1.2 million project that will include paving, adding an 8-inch water line and putting in subsurface drainage.
Drainage and street improvements are never a sexy topic. People usually stop reading right there, but such improvements would connect downtown to a lively area of the city that is poised to bloom. Growth has already started.
The 28 parking spaces will serve businesses already along the west end of Porter. Better drainage will stop a popular coffee shop, The Greenhouse on Porter, from flooding during heavy rains, and a continuous sidewalk from the Biloxi Bay Bridge to downtown will keep runners from having to move into the street to complete charity runs.
Moving from downtown
Tri Hard Sports is moving to 430 Porter Ave.
Manager Duncan Perkins said it’s the way to go for them, partly because it’s closer to the beach and bridge.
“We’re excited,” Perkins said. “We think that’s the real growth zone for Ocean Springs.”
Tri Hard has been on Government Street near Washington Avenue for more than two years. It has built a following Perkins said will follow the triathlon-oriented shop to Porter Avenue. For businesses, he said, downtown is “grown out and the prices are skyrocketing.”
Developer Fred Moran built a strip mall next door to the old Classy Cat beauty salon building. And just up the street at Martin Avenue, a historic building that has been many businesses is being transformed into a multi-use complex.
Joe Cloyd, one of the investors working on the development, said city leaders told the investment group about the infrastructure project.
“We were so encouraged by the investment the city is willing to make in that area, we decided to increase the scope of our development to include six high-end hotel suites and a catering operation,” he said.
Cloyd said it also will have suites for offices and a space for Eat Drink Love Catering and Gourmet Grab-and-Go.
The working title for the 9,000-square-foot mixed-use development is The Porter House with a total investment of up to $1 million.
How it will be funded
The street funding is expected to go like this: $50,000 from the city, $50,000 pledged by Jackson County Supervisor Troy Ross and a $150,000 grant from the state Bond Commission that state Rep. Hank Zuber has arranged for.
All that money will go to match about $950,000 in federal funds.
The project was set up four years ago but stopped.
“It’s all designed,” Mayor Connie Moran said. “All we have to do is update it a little bit and put it out for bids. Four years ago, we had acquired the right-of-way, moved the utilities and gas lines and the aldermen decided at the last minute not to go out for bids.”
At the time, aldermen balked at paying the city’s portion of the match. In recent weeks, Alderman Matt McDonnell praised Cloyd’s multi-use project, calling it a major development for the city, and others last week voted to move ahead to pursue the street improvements.
Jessie Zenor of The Greenhouse urged friends on a public Facebook page to support the project. The city still has to go through public hearings before good things can come for what some are fondly calling the Lower West Side.
“As you know there is a huge drainage problem,” Zenor posted. “The Greenhouse floods every time there is a good rain. The sidewalk ends at Val’s, and picks back up at the (U.S.) 90 overpass. And with all of the new development on Porter Avenue, there is a lack of parking for all businesses. There are more businesses moving in, and this problem is only going to grow more apparent. Lets get this project underway and help this end of town develop. The benefits will be huge!”
A better Lower West Side
City leaders have agreed to pursue funding for west Porter Avenue.
- 10-foot lanes with a new street base and pavement
- Curbs with a 1-foot 6-inch gutter
- Underground drainage work
- 28 angled parking spaces, a crosswalk, sidewalks
- A bigger water line — 8 inches
- Improved drainage outfalls
- Striping and signs