Sunday, January 14, 2007

Casino in Old Town

Developers plan Old Town Casino
Jan 12, 2007, 17:18

Bay St. Louis developer Hester Plauché and Marrero, La.-based contractor Pete Vicari plan to go before the Bay City Council Tuesday night to unveil plans for an ambitious $100 million "boutique" casino, hotel, restaurant and retail project they say will reinvigorate the hurricane-ravaged Old Town area, restore its long-lost historic charm and – most importantly – bring back the downtown merchants deprived of their livelihoods by Katrina.
"You won't see the glitz and glamour, no neon," Plauché said Thursday. "You will see the original architecture of Old Town."

Designer Al Fiori’s concept for the Old Town Casino, shops and renovated A&G Theater in downtown Bay St. Louis at Main St. and Beach Blvd. The project, planned by local developer Hester Plauché and Marrero contractor Pete Vicari, is scheduled to go before the Bay St. Louis City Council on Tuesday evening.
The project encompasses three full blocks of the Bay's beachfront, from State St. to the railroad tracks, and includes 40,000 square feet of gaming space – comparable to Hollywood Casino – wrapped inside quaint, old-style retail shops, art galleries and restaurants. The pair also want to build a parking garage on Court St., between the beach and the Hancock County Justice Facility, which would also act as a buffer between the railroad and the adjacent shopping areas. Plans also include a 400-room hotel similar to the old Pickwick Hotel, which burned to the ground circa 1917. Everything, Vicari said, will be based on the town's original architecture, with nothing over four stories – and completely in the spirit of plans produced during the Governor's Commission's "charrette" process.
Vicari is an award-winning New Orleans-area contractor, specializing in historic restoration and preservation projects, such as the work done at the old U.S. Mint in the French Quarter. He was also recently featured on the ABC Television program "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
"In planning the Old Town project, "Pete spent a lot of time at the (Hancock) Historical Society, looking at pictures" from before the turn of the 20th century, Plauché said."
Every time there was a hurricane, when they built it back, something changed. We want to take it back to what it was, " Vicari said. "A lot of what was there (prior to Hurricane Katrina) really wasn't that architecturally pretty. I'm trying to step it up a notch."
"When we do this, we don't want high-rises," Plauché said. "This needs to be a place of assembly for the people."
The gaming facility will be necessary in order to draw enough revenue to rebuild Old Town's lost charm without forcing rent and real estate prices too high to attract merchants and restaurants. In effect, a casino would subsidize the properties, making their prices reasonable and affordable for small business.
"When we say a boutique casino, we're talking about something in between what's done in the classier (American) casinos and a European casino," Plauché said.The casino itself wouldn't have a gift shop or restaurant, leaving that open to downtown merchants. All the shops would face the street, Plauché said, with the casino tucked subtly in the center. It would be an upscale facility, filled with work by local artists.
"There are people away from here that the only thing they know Bay St. Louis to be is Second Saturday and the little shops," Vicari said ... . "This facility is going to be heavily influenced by local artists."
"We're losing our artists," Plauché said. "We're losing crafts people, and when you start losing 'em, it's hard to get 'em back. If this doesn't happen as quick as it can, what's going to happen to the rest of Bay St. Louis?"
The plan also calls for the renovation of the old A&G theatre building, which would be restored, rather than torn down, and offered for use by the Bay St. Louis Little Theatre and school and arts productions. The Hancock Bank building would remain in its current location.The beach front would remain open for public access. Hopefully, Plauché said, later on, the city could build an amphitheater for outdoor festivals and events.
If the city council greenlights the project, Plauché said, "We won't have to worry about a condo popping up on the beach or somebody building a shack. ... This will be something the people of Bay St. Louis can be proud of."
"Our slogan's going to be 'Come on home,'" Vicari said.Plauché said the financing, plans, construction crew and management team are already in place, all under the auspices of his and Vicari's holding company, PV Acquisitions. The two men have already talked to most of the neighbors and about 95 percent of the property owners who would be involved. Most of the work could be done in a year's time, from start to finish, Vicari said.The area is already zoned C-2 commercial. The only obstacle at this point, Plauché said, is whether the Bay St. Louis City Council will endorse the project, allowing a variance of the town's 25-acre casino district requirement.
"Old Town is what brought people here (before Katrina)," Plauché said. We thought if we could bring Old Town back, it would have a lot of positive effect on the community."

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Building Inspector Resigns

Bay St. Louis building chief resigns post
Jan 12, 2007, 17:13
Another high-level official in the Bay St. Louis Building Inspection department has resigned.
Officials confirmed Thursday that William Breeden had submitted his resignation. Known as "Little Bill," Breeden had worked under chief building official William Carrigee.
Carrigee quit last fall, amid controversy over his work for the county as a consultant while on the payroll as full time building inspector. At the time of his resignation, at least two others on the city building department payroll resigned as well.
Mayor Eddie Favre said Tuesday the city has had troubles keeping the department staffed. "We hire and lose. Hire and lose..." the mayor said. The city continues to take applications for the top slots, he said.
Meanwhile, the department's ranks are dwindling. Asked who's in charge of the department right now, city administrator Buz Olsen said, "Me." Olsen said the city still has plenty of staff to handle the daily operations and review building plans. It's also getting some help from Jerry Beaugez, a county building official who's offered assistance, Olsen said.
Breeden resigned to take a better paying job in Pascagoula, according to Olsen.
In other matters Tuesday, there was continued alarm voiced over the city decision to allow two huge mobile trailers to locate on Hancock Street, next to the St. Stansilaus graveyard.
Favre said he personally okayed the trailers, giving the school's brothers a place to stay while their living quarters are rebuilt. He said such trailers are reviewed after six months.
Real estate agent Camille Tate said the "horrible looking" trailers look like they're permanently set up on the property, and she questioned whether they were properly permitted.
Meanwhile, council discussed a larger problem of mobile homes setting up in the city without permission, and the need to review who's living in them and why.
Aside from individual trailers rolling into town, council is upset that the FEMA trailer park on Highway 90 and Drinkwater has become a revolving door complex for anybody who wants to live there.
Originally, council agreed to the park only if the trailers would be removed as soon as the temporary residents who occupied them moved out. According to some, however, the trailers are being occupied by out-of-towners as soon as the original tenants move out.
In other matters council:
• Reappointed Cheryl Ladner to a five-year term on the school board.
• Agreed to seek prices on new furniture for the council chambers, recently relocated to the former Coast Electric conference center.
• Authorized a call for bids on new traffic and street signs in the older part of the city.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

FEMA Paying For Water Meters

FEMA to Pay $1.08 Million to Bay St. Louis for Water Meters
» More Information on Mississippi Hurricane Katrina
BILOXI, Miss. -- The City of Bay St. Louis will receive a grant of more than $1.08 million from the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to replace and provide future protection for water meters damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
Large amounts of debris, salt water flooding, and uprooted trees following Katrina severely damaged the city's drinkable water system. The grant includes more than $697,000 to replace 3,400 water meters that were lost or damaged and nearly $510,000 to storm-proof the meters, ensuring similar damage does not occur in the future. Ninety percent of the total $1.2 million project cost will be covered by the FEMA grant.
"FEMA has to look ahead to make sure that solutions are sustainable," said Alec Watson, chief of staff for the Biloxi Transitional Recovery Office. "That means close attention to mitigation and prevention as well as immediate relief."
In addition to the $1.08 million grant, FEMA previously disbursed a grant of $18.3 million to Bay St. Louis to bring certain potable water lines in the area to current codes and standards.
"Public Assistance grants play such a large role in the recovery process," said Mike Womack, Director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). "In order for residents to return and rebuild along the coast, repairing and improving the city's infrastructure is essential."
FEMA has already obligated nearly $2 billion in grants to Mississippi through the Public Assistance program. MEMA administers the program and allocates the money to the applicants.
The grant comes from FEMA's Public Assistance program, which provides financial assistance to state and federal governments and eligible non-profit organizations for disaster-related cleanup and rebuilding to pre-disaster condition. The state of Mississippi and the applicant pay a share of the costs for projects that are not fully funded by FEMA.
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident, initiates mitigation activities and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA works closely with state and local emergency managers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters and other first responders. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.
Last Modified: Tuesday, 09-Jan-2007 11:12:39

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Photos December/January

A house rebuilt by the Presbyterians

Elevation change to comply with new codes

A house in a Pearl River development

One House gave Right of Entry, the other did not. ROE allows the National Guard come in and remove debris, but not the house. (From Gary - ROE allows the Corps of Engineers to come in and remove debris, or tarp the roof. In some cases they would remove demolished buildings and large debris a homeowner could not normally clean up.)

A newly rebuilt house with a well supported heat exchanger (AC unit). Most are only strapped to the house.

Steel structural support still waiting to be rebuilt

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