BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (AP) Mayor Eddie Favre is reviewing options for rebuilding a beachfront road that runs through Bay St. Louis’ downtown business district.
A massive chunk of land was washed away from Beach Boulevard by Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge and could require a “land swap” between the city and beachfront business owners, Favre said.
Local and federal officials are hammering out the financial details of a project to repair the beachfront road, but plans to rebuild the section that runs through Old Town, Bay St. Louis’ downtown business district, are far more complex than a few loads of dirt and new asphalt.
Last month, county and city officials were discussing a plan that would have included using eminent domain to repair the boulevard through Old Town, seizing private property on the beachside of the road. However, Favre said a government takeover of the commercial property is unlikely, and the future of beachfront businesses is not in jeopardy.
“Half of our downtown business came from right there along the beachfront,” he said. “We need all of it back.”
Before Katrina on Aug. 29, Old Town was packed with restaurants and retail shops. The small town’s nightlife scene flourished, with locals using the beachfront sidewalks to hop from bar to bar. Old Town was built along a cliff, nearly 40 ft. high in some places, but Katrina swallowed businesses and scooped out huge pieces of land.
The county has asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to extend the seawall near Old Town about 40 ft. further into the water, and instead of replacing the 6-ft. wall, to add a concrete barrier standing as tall as the beach road.
The county will then begin the extraordinary task of filling the space between the new seawall and the beach with dirt, adding land where it has not existed in modern time.
Additional parking spaces along the boulevard will face the beach, unlike the old spaces, which were parallel to the beach road. The added parking will mean the sidewalk and road will need to be extended onto property owned by several beachfront businesses.
Favre said local leaders would likely offer a trade. The city or county would take the space needed to widen the road and add parking in exchange for the new property the government plans to pump in.
Beach Boulevard is a federal road, which means the Federal Highway Administration could fund the repairs, but only if the repairs are done under federal guidelines.
Favre hopes to have a final plan in the next few months.