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GCN Recovery News Report

This report will be updated as information becomes available
Updated 5/7/14

It has been nearly nine years since Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Mississippi Coast, the good news is that a tremendous amount of "recovery" has taken place. But that does not mean all has returned as before.

There still remain miles of un-redeveloped property along the beachfront U.S. Highway 90. High insurance costs and uncertainty of financing have been the main problems in rebuilding the Coast. And the continued loss of business development, from motels to restaurants, is still a problem.

A national television audience of more than 2 million was told in a 6½-minute segment in 2011 on the CBS "Early Show" that Biloxi has overcome man-made and natural disasters and the community is booming again.

"This was great not only for Biloxi, but for the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast," said Mayor A.J. Holloway, who had briefed CBS producers during their visit to Biloxi. "It's the type of coverage that's great in terms of tourism and all types of development."

The segment featured Brent Pierotich discussing his family's decision to rebuild its third generation landmark Sharkheads souvenir shop, part of the burgeoning development on west beach in Biloxi; city Community Development Director Jerry Creel touting the $44 million Margaritaville Casino construction site in east Biloxi and development throughout the city; and a live interview with Gov. Haley Barbour, who described Biloxi as "a wonderful, world-class destination resort" and the residents of the Gulf Coast as "strong, tough, resilient, self-reliant people."

The gist of the story, however, was growth. (More Here)

The City of Biloxi has produced an online video showing major Katrina recovery projects. You can see the presentation by following this LINK.

 Biloxi's new Visitor's Center just north of the Biloxi Lighthouse is open.

The new building replaces the former wood-framed structure that was obliterated by hurricane Katrina in 2005. The new structure, built to withstand future storms, is constructed of steel and concrete and is much larger than the old building.

The new Visitors Center forms part of the city's planned Lighthouse Park.

The 22,000 sq.ft. building  has dozens of interactive exhibits on Biloxi's past, present, and future. It also features traveling exhibits as well as an upstairs theater and the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce.

Gulfport opened its new harbor in late July. The entire harbor and Jones Park revitalization is now complete but slips are ready, but as of Sept. 2013 the harbor is only about half full. To see a video tour of the harbor, click here.

PEARL –More than 350 Mississippi Cottages were auctioned to registered bidders on Dec. 10 at Martin and Martin Auctioneers, 2236 Highway 49 in Brooklyn. The auction featured one, two and three bedroom units that are designed in the traditional beach cottage architecture. 

The units were sold as is, which varies from slightly damaged to needing multiple improvements. 

A new report  gives residents of Biloxi and others a detailed status of the progress that the city has made in the five years since Hurricane Katrina, and provides insight into the work that remains to be done.

"The State of the City 2010: Katrina +5.1, Where we are today" is a 16-page compendium of facts, figures, charts, photographs and artist's renderings, detailing the progress of city rebuilding projects, public housing, public schools, and public transit. The report, which should be in mailboxes citywide by Wednesday, also includes information from Keesler Air Force Base, MEMA and FEMA. (More Here)

The August 29, 2010 Katrina anniversary came and went. The day was noted in the news media as a bit more "special" than the previous years. Most of the accounts were about the progress the region has experienced in putting the damages "behind" them, which still is impossible to do. While progress in cleaning up has been made, vast areas are still not returning and redevelopment has been markedly slow. This is true for all of the areas most impacted by the storm and remain true even as of 2013. You see the results easily from the hundreds of empty lots that stretch across the Mississippi Coast to the areas in New Orleans.

Even though the news of the anniversary was cast in a mostly positive light, the fact is that billions of federal dollars has yet to be spent. Nearly half of the allocated money approved by Congress has been spent. This is especially noticeable on the Mississippi Coast. In Biloxi, for example, work to repair much of the city's underground utilities and hurricane-flooded roads is just now getting underway.. This is even evident in FEMA own reports. CLICK HERE and HERE. For Biloxi details CLICK HERE.

Pass Christian's new City Hall has reopened. The original was destroyed by Katrina nearly in 2005. The city's Water Department has move to the 8,000 square foot building. Pass Christian was severely impacted by Katrina which destroyed all of the city's governmental buildings. The city's government had been operating out of trailers since the 2005 hurricane.

A Biloxi Public Works crew has updated the so-called K-lines throughout the city, the foot-wide blue lines  on more than 70 utility poles that provide quiet reminders of the height of the Katrina storm surge. (Photo Right: Arrow points to marker on telephone pole)

The work is a follow up to a city project that began in 2007, when the city’s Community Development Department used contour and high-water marks provided by FEMA to create a list of Katrina water marks at high-traffic locations. (More Here)

Biloxi contractors have completed a 120-day, $187,000 project that saw the restoration of Guice Park, the site of the USS Biloxi mast and other war-related markers on U.S. 90 at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor. Chuck Collins of J.O. Collins Contracting – the Biloxi firm that has restored the Biloxi Lighthouse and White House fountain and restoration of Biloxi City Hall.

Costs for Katrina recovery in Bay St. Louis is rising, reports the Sea Coast Echo. The costs for a variety of projects involved in the recovery are up due to change orders by contractors working on hurricane infrastructure repairs and renovations to the city sports complex. (More here)

Tremendous progress is being made across the Coast region in Katrina recovery issues. Work on new public buildings such as new City Halls in Long Beach, Pass Christian, D'Iberville are not far from finishing. Many other public projects are also well underway. There is the new Biloxi Library and the huge new welcome center. There is also considerable work underway underground as utilities that were damaged or destroyed by Katrina are fixed.

Cities across the Coast are also clearing the last remaining structures that were left damaged by Katrina from high visibility areas along the beachfront and within neighborhoods. Still there is much left to be done. Unfortunately, while dilapidated buildings and houses have been removed, very little new is going back in. In east Biloxi, once crowded neighborhoods are open lots. And much of the beachfront, where stores, motels and apartments once stood are still empty lots. While the slabs and broken buildings are gone, it is clear that high insurance costs and the depressed national economy are sharply slowing rebuilding. But there is some, and there is hope in that. The Coast still has a growing population but many folks in the former beach-area neighborhoods have moved inland, many to new neighborhoods built since Katrina.

There is enormous progress though everywhere you look, but still much to be done. For example, in the Biloxi beachfront neighborhoods that survived, sidewalks are still broken and even missing from the heavy debris equipment that moved through the area after Katrina. And many neighborhood streets have the scars of front-end loaders that took a portion of the road along with the debris from the 2005 hurricane.

Then there are the harbors, all of which are still getting repaired, from Biloxi to Bay St Louis. It seems the work to repair and rebuild much of the infrastructure is still moving too slow.

Some good news from Biloxi is that it's historic lighthouse has been completely renovated. Built in the mid 1800's, the lighthouse has weathered every hurricane since its construction, but Katrina was particularly hard on the steel and brick structure.  Biloxi also recently completed repairs to the White House fountain. But in every community on the Coast, there remain real scars of Katrina, both in the absence of what was once part of the community, and in the hearts of residents.

The Mississippi Development Authority Disaster Recovery Division (MDA DRD) and the Gulf Coast Housing Resource Centers have launched an online listing of all available affordable rental units provided through MDA’s Small Rental Assistance Program (SRAP), Public Housing Assistance and Long Term Workforce Housing (LTWH) programs.
“This initiative called, the Housing Entry and Resident Tracking or ‘HEART’, is an online repository of all available housing being provided by the state’s post-Katrina housing programs,” said Jon Mabry, Chief Operations Officer of MDA DRD, which administers more than $5 billion in federally-appropriated recovery funds for replenishing housing stock, rebuilding public infrastructure and retaining/creating jobs in the Katrina affected counties. “Having a user-friendly, one-stop shop readily available will be a great asset for all case-workers, renters and agencies charged with providing affordable housing.” The listing can be viewed at www.heartms.org. Organizations providing services to clients who wish to obtain access to this database, can do so by completing the registration page. (More Here)

Biloxi saw nearly 4,000 lots cleared of code issues in 2009, mostly property that saw damages from Katrina. This was more than the number cleared in 2007 and 2008 combined, and permits for new homes jumped to 271 in 2009, almost triple the number issued in each year since the storm, thanks to a new development in Woolmarket.

"We're just doing our jobs, to be honest," said Biloxi Community Development Director Jerry Creel. "It's like I've always said, there's a lot going on in Biloxi, whether it's new home construction, new businesses opening, or property owners taking action to clear up their property. The difference in Biloxi is that it's not all in one concentrated place, which means you see growth in different pockets throughout the city." The impressive numbers on code enforcement and housing are included in a series of economic and community indicators that was included in the "State of the City" report, an annual follow-up to Mayor A.J. Holloway's annual State of the City address.

Sears Automotive Center had its Grand Openings at Edgewater Mall late February. The new store is a $2 million, state-of-the-art automotive center covering 14,000 square feet. The store actually had a soft opening a week earlier. The new store sits on the same, pre-Katrina footprint but has new design. The Sears Automotive store had been closed since Katrina severely damaged the earlier structure on August 29, 2005.

Biloxi's historic lighthouse was operational after Katrina, but the light was temporarily extinguished for the restoration to take place last year. A $400,000 restoration project on the lighthouse was completed in February and in a ceremony, February 19 the lighthouse was relit. The Biloxi lighthouse had become of symbol of the Coast's recovery effort becoming with its image being placed on  U.S. Postal Service Stamp and on Mississippi license plates. (More Here)

The Mississippi Development Authority Disaster Recovery Division’s (MDA DRD) Small Rental Assistance Program (SRAP) has completed and received certificates of occupancy for more than 2,000 small rental units in less than two years, halfway to SRAP’s projected 4,000 unit goal. SRAP, along with the state’s Long Term Workforce Housing and Public Housing Assistance programs, represents almost $1 billion committed by Governor Haley Barbour to build or rehabilitate affordable housing throughout the Coastal counties impacted by Hurricane Katrina. (More Here)

Biloxi city contractors have yet to finish work on 11 sections of roads and sidewalks, and expect to have the $922,000 federally-funded project completed this year.

"Obviously, this has been a time-consuming process to get to this point," said City Engineer Damon Torricelli. "The biggest chore was for an engineering firm, Neel-Schaffer, to identify what was where before the storm, and then design the replacement infrastructure. After that, we went to MDOT to help with the funding. To be honest, the actual construction should be the quickest part of the entire process."

Bay St. Louis announced recently that their Katrina-damaged Beach Drive is now restored. The road was nearly destroyed by Katrina in 2005.

Work continues at mid-July on Pass Christian's Police station. Katrina destroyed every municipal building in the small city west of Gulfport in 2005.

A new City Hall and Jeff Davis Avenue in downtown Long Beach is also showing progress. The city's main thoroughfare from the beach U.S. 90 was completely wiped out in 2005.

Biloxi has begun a huge $356 million reconstruction project that will repair, restore and fix every street and pipes flooded  by Katrina. Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway (photo left) described the project and the restoration work in the city as marking the "end of the beginning," during the mayor's State of the City report in January. (More Here)

In Gulfport, Mayor George Schloegel's administration is trying hard to put hurricane Katrina in the past. The mayor said he is stepping up code enforcement to force property owners with derelict property to clean up and restore their land. To that end, the city sent a final notice within water bills of problem properties, or the property owners will face prosecution in the city's recently formed Environmental Court.

 (GCN Photo right: Mayor George Schloegel)

Biloxi relocated the 1800's era Slay House in January saving another piece of Biloxi's history from Katrina. The so-called Slay House, an historic structure on the corner of Reynoir and Jackson streets south of Biloxi Regional Medical Center, According to the city book “The Buildings of Biloxi: An Architectural Survey,” the home was built between 1893 and 1898. Its uniqueness – it's one of only two of this style in the city – is the bracketed overhang across the main façade.

 

“Such overhangs,” according to “Buildings of Biloxi,” “are numerous in New Orleans, but this is one of two extant examples in Biloxi.”  (More Here)

 

 


GulfCoastNews.com received a prestigious award during the Online News Association annual meeting held in Washington, Oct. 6-8, 2006. During award ceremonies Oct. 8, GCN received the ONA Excellence in Service Journalism Award for small websites for its GCN Survivor Connector Database.

"This is truly a deep honor," said Keith Burton, GCN's owner and editor. "The GCN database was created to help people that were relocated from evacuations during Hurricane Katrina, but I never realized at the time how it would help so many people." (More Here)


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