MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST — Commercial real estate activity on the Coast has slowed down with a
number of large vacant facilities in some of the Coast’s smaller community. But at the same time,
smaller Coast towns such as Ocean Springs and Long Beach that don’t have casinos have still benefited
particularly with smaller businesses and restaurants.
In Ocean Springs the old Wal-Mart building on U.S. 90 is still vacant following the opening of a new
Wal-Mart SuperCenter in the eastern part of town, and the Super K-Mart located across from the old
Wal-Mart closed leaving a large building vacant. The Heilig-Meyers Furniture Company in Ocean
Springs, also located on U.S. 90, has also closed.
At the same time in Ocean Springs, the downtown, Washington Ave. and Government St. areas continue
to thrive, and new restaurants are opening on a regular basis including a new Applebee’s that opened
recently on U.S. 90. Business leaders in Ocean Springs have said they are not overly concerned about
the vacant commercial buildings, although they hope that new retailers will be attracted to fill those
Bay St. Louis has lost three large businesses in the city with the closure of Winn-Dixie and West
Building Supply and relocation of DeRussy Motors to Hwy. 603. The city is losing an estimated
$10,000 per month in sales tax revenues due to those closures. The Hancock County Chamber of
Commerce is currently considering establishment of a new committee to market the existing vacant
commercial sites, and plans to have the properties advertised on the Mississippi Development
Authority’s Web site.
Long Beach took different path
Long Beach, a small community located just west of Gulfport in Harrison County, also has two vacant
shopping centers that formerly housed grocery stores. While efforts to find tenants for those shopping
centers have not been successful, there are a number of new projects underway for the downtown and
“The Long Beach downtown has really begun to shine, as well as their harbor,” said Brynn Joachim,
commercial development manager, Harrison County Development Commission. “They have three new
restaurants that have been announced for those areas, as well as several small retail openings which I
think are a good sign that the economic benefits of casinos are spreading to smaller communities. Long
Beach is small, but it is well planned and people are attracted to what is happening there.”
Citizens of Long Beach voted three times against allowing casinos in the community. Mayor Robert
Bass says his town has taken another approach to economic development.
“Citizens of Long Beach are really trying to preserve the quality of life and balance that with enough
revenues coming into the city to pay the bills and improve the community,” Bass said. “One of the real
assets we have to offer is a slower pace, less traffic and a less nerve-racking environment for people to
enjoy. That’s the direction we are building upon. We have several planning efforts going on to cement
that kind of reputation for Long Beach.”
In Long Beach a new restaurant in moving into a city-owned building in the harbor area that previously
housed Chimneys Restaurant. After doubling the size of the building, the new restaurant is scheduled to
open in February of next year. An historic building that housed the first Hancock Bank on the Coast
has been purchased and is being renovated to house a gift shop and hair salon. Li’l Rays, a popular
Coast po’ boy and seafood place, has purchased a building downtown that is currently being
“We hope to build critical mass of restaurants so that when people want to eat, they will head in this
direction where they can select from one of a number of options,” Bass said.
Smaller towns at disadvantage
When it comes to competing with larger cities like Biloxi and Gulfport for large commercial
developments, smaller towns can be at a disadvantage. Bass said developers want to enhance their
competitiveness by locating in areas with a substantial amount of traffic.
“While we’re noticing that Long Beach is growing, we still don’t have the level of traffic that will give
larger developers the confidence to come and make an investment down here,” Bass said. “It is
changing on a daily basis in our favor, but it still requires a sales job on our part.”
Although Long Beach doesn’t have nearly the tax revenues that it would if it had allowed a casino, Bass
has no regrets.
“I think we made the right decision,” he said. “Not every community has to follow the same course or
look like every other community. The ultimate success of a community will depend on the directions the
citizens want it to go in. Long Beach will never be a Gulfport or Biloxi, but if we do a good job
planning, we’ll be what we want Long Beach to be in 20 years.”
D’Iberville top of retail triangle
D’Iberville is a smaller Coast community that has wanted a casino, but hasn’t yet been successful in
getting one off the ground. But D’Iberville has seen considerable growth anyhow. One of the most
active commercial real estate developments on the Coast is in D’Iberville at the site of Interstate 10 and
“That area is just going to continue to bloom,” Joachim said. “That is a real hot area right now. It just
happens to have the benefit of being north of Biloxi where it is growing like crazy. It is also close
enough to an affluent population in Ocean Springs where it makes them almost the top of the triangle.
D’Iberville can benefit from populations crossing city and county lines to shop.”
In Gulfport the Crossroads Shopping Center continues to thrive, and currently hearings are being held
regarding the Louisiana developer Butch Ward’s proposed Turkey Creek project located south of
Interstate 10 and west of U.S. 49. “I think everyone is waiting to see what will happen with the Butch
Ward Turkey Creek project,” Joachim said. “That is the next parcel of property that could be
developed and may add a new dimension to that corridor.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at firstname.lastname@example.org or (228) 872-3457.