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‘Outstanding development site’ also a sign of slow recovery?

Like other Mississippi Coast communities, Long Beach is rebuilding its residential and commercial areas. Also like other cities, the rebuilding along U.S. 90 is slow. A large waterfront property for sale within the city limits is an example of what’s happening with commercial zones that thrived before Hurricane Katrina.

The 11-acre tract with 450 feet of frontage on U.S. 90, West Beach Boulevard, is listed for sale with the purchaser to be determined by a sealed bid process, due May 15 and opened at 2 p.m. May 16.

Realtors Lee Sands and Paul Richard of Latter & Blum say the property is zoned C-2 and is situated in a GO Zone eligible area with an elevation of 15 to 17 feet above sea level. It is the former site of a Ramada Inn that used only approximately five acres of the land.

“The size of the property, the location and potential development uses all contribute to make this an outstanding development site,” Sands said. “The location could be used to develop a marina, a condominium or hotel development or a combination of any of those with some retail.”

He adds that the area market is strange now with property values difficult to determine. The price for this property will vary with the intended use of the buyer and development costs.

“We have several ideas and all involve some type of residential component — condo or hotel,” he said. “A lot of what ends up there will depend on the cost of development. We just want to see the full potential for Long Beach.”

Mayor Billy Skellie would like to see another hotel on the property. “It’s a great location and neatly situated with downtown,” he said. “It has beautiful live oaks and will work well with what the city is doing. It’s near the harbor, which we’re in the process of bringing back, and within 15 minutes of excellent golf courses.”

Moving away from beach?

Long Beach Realtor Angie Pino sees interest in commercial property but not on U.S. 90.

“We’re seeing everything move away from the beach,” she said. “A lot of the property along Highway 90 needs cleaning and zoning approvals. Then the buyer must put something there that will be substantial and successful. Buyers are finding that property is cheaper away from the beach.”

In several coastal cities, condo projects are not renewing applications and others are not building at this time, says Gulfport Realtor, appraiser and developer Stuart Huffman.

“A lot of projects that were supposed to go up are not building now,” he said. “We’re just not seeing much condo building. Not enough has come back on Highway 90, but commercial property north of Interstate 10 is going great guns. What sellers can get for property on Highway 90 is less now that what they could have gotten a year ago.”

Huffman points out that Mississippi has to build back under stronger disaster guidelines than surrounding states and property values are all over the board. Even with the housing shortage, residents are not buying available condominiums.

“Condominiums are selling for $400,000 to $500,000 for 1,200 square feet. Locals are not doing that,” he said. “Florida overbuilt condos and they now have a glut.”

Insurance issue

Pino, who works with Gulf Properties, hopes things improve along Highway 90 as the cost of insurance goes down. “We have some interest in beach property from casinos, but they can’t go there,” she said. “However, I think a lot of other things, mostly residential, will be coming back. The SeaBee base is close to Long Beach and is expanding. We have investors interested in an area near the base.”

Skellie says there are no height restrictions in Long Beach but he envisions a condo or hotel at no more than 10 floors.

“It is not the best use of this large beachfront tract for a building to be spread out all over the property,” he said. “It should go up to provide more views and leave more green space around. It might have some accommodating shops on the lower level. We can open up a street to make it accessible to locals without getting on the highway.”

Although no one has come to his office to ask about this property, he feels it has great possibilities. “We’re a bedroom community and the recovery is going fairly well,” he said. “We’re excited about some things, but it’s moving along slow on Highway 90.”

Sands says the C-2 zoning is for a higher commercial use that could be used for a shopping center in addition to hotel or condo development. “We’ve had a lot of inquiries, largely because we have no minimum bids,” he said. “We have no pre-conceived conceptions and want to see what the market will bring.”

The property is currently owned by a group of Mississippi and Louisiana investors.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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