New businesses, restaurants, shops coming to MS Pass Road

He has a reputation for having a rough exterior.

But gleaming white buildings are springing up and new attractions are drawing people to Pass Road, even before a huge antique market opens in Gulfport.

Pass Road, which stretches from Seabee Base in Gulfport to the back gate of Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, also has its challenges. Potholes, empty buildings, too many signs and dilapidated businesses spoil the 21 km journey.

These challenges also provide opportunities, says Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes.

Real estate is more affordable on Pass Road than along other trade corridors like Cowan Road and US 49, he said. Developers are rehabilitating existing properties, he said, and constructing new construction.

“People will want to be close to where things are happening,” Hewes said. “Success breeds success.”

Pass Road represents an opportunity for Biloxi, said Jerry Creel, director of community development for Biloxi.

New owners have just purchased the old Winn-Dixie mall, he said. “They are now considering creating outdoor plots.”

The old grocery store at the corner of Pass Road and Popp’s Ferry has been closed since 2018.

The Biloxi board kicked off the process on Tuesday to issue a $17 million bond, with the intention of allocating about half of the money to Popp’s Ferry Road extension from Pass Road to US 90 .

“Once the Popp’s Ferry extension to the beach is in place, we expect it to be one of the busiest spots in town,” Creel said.

A short distance to the east, acres of grass on the former Broadwater Casino site, which backs up to Pass Road, could become the UMUSIC Broadwater Hotel and Casino. The $1.2 billion casino is offered in partnership with Universal Music Group.

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The former Winn-Dixie Grocery Mall in Biloxi has new ownership and is one of the development opportunities on Pass Road in Biloxi and Gulfport. Hannah Ruhof hruhoff@sunherald.com

Is Pass Road the new hot spot?

The most promising stretch of the road now lies between DeBuys and Cowan roads in Gulfport, where the I Heart Mac & Cheese restaurant recently opened in one of these white commercial buildings and Mississippi Antique Galleria is being renovated. preparation for up to 500 dealers.

Improvements to this section of Pass Road were launched in 2019, when Rouses Market moved from one corner of Pass Road in Cowan to a completely refurbished store on the opposite corner.

Latin grocery stores, such as Tortillería Morelos Grocery at 1982 East Pass Road and Supermercado La Veracruzana at 2044 East Pass Road, have opened.

Modern white buildings with black trim are becoming something of a design standard. Southern Charm Furniture & Design sports a crisp look with a row of white malls built by Garlon Pemberton and HP Development, a local builder working on several projects in southern Mississippi.

Five white shopping malls lining the south side of Pass Road are home to Layla Cafe, The Cotton Patch children’s boutique, Coast Day Spa and several other trendy businesses.

Pemberton recently started work on another shopping center east of the five for Ivan Spinner, a local developer. Spinner owns Gulf Coast Exotic Auto and will set up a showroom in the new building, Pemberton said. Other tenants waiting for the building to be completed include a mortgage company, a real estate agency and a law firm, he said.

New modern buildings have attracted attention and customers. Businesses that have moved there are doing better than in their previous locations, he said.

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I Heart Mac and Cheese, a new pasta chain on Pass Road, is housed in one of Gulfport’s gleaming new malls. Hannah Ruhof hruhoff@sunherald.com

Planes, trains draw crowds

Pass Road is also home to schools, churches, cemeteries, professional offices and apartment buildings.

Tourists and residents can visit the Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum which honors John Robinson, the first African-American pilot to fight in combat, and others in Mississippi who contributed to aviation.

Nearby is the Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum, and together these two attractions breathe new life into Pass Road near Hewes Avenue in Gulfport.

Richard Mueller is one of the funders and volunteers of the Railroad Museum which now fills the buildings on the north and south sides of Pass Road.

The original building on the north side has 7,000 square feet of trains and 1.5 acres of gardens and exterior trains, he said.

“We’ve since purchased a mall on the south side,” he said, and it’s 42,000 square feet.

Another building between there and Hewes Avenue was purchased recently, giving them 70,000 more square feet. “We plan over time to expand our model trains there,” he said, along with a very large Lego display.

Pass Road has been a good location for the nonprofit museum, he said.

“It’s extremely affordable compared to other properties on the coast,” Mueller said. Although the buildings are older, he said they have good roofs, parking lots and signs.

The museum attracts local families and many birthday parties, he said, as well as tourists, who are “shocked” by the low cost of entry and the number of trains running.

The museum will host Gulfport Train Show and Sale on March 26-27, and this is one of six times a year that they will open the south building to the public.

“We draw a hell of a crowd,” he said.

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The Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum now has three buildings on the north and south sides of Pass Road in Gulfport. This attraction and the nearby Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum are attracting more and more families and tourists to Pass Road. Hannah Ruhof hruhoff@sunherald.com

Opening of a new antiques gallery

Expected to draw a large crowd when it opened, the Mississippi Antique Galleria on Pass Road in East Gulfport is considered the largest antique mall in Mississippi.

“The whole building is about 90,000 square feet,” said owner Jourdan Nicaud. Areas at the front of the sprawling mall are leased, and he said the antique store would take up the remaining 70,000 square feet.

Opening was delayed by COVID-19 and damage from Hurricane Zeta. Nicaud said his goal is to open this spring.

Vendors will be able to rent a 10X10 space staffed by the resort. Although the antiques and collectibles are old, the gallery will allow sellers to have their own virtual stores where buyers can browse and buy online and come to the gallery to pick up their purchases, he said.

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The site for the future Mississippi Antique Galleria on Pass Road is being prepared for 500 vendors in the sprawling Gulfport Mall. Hannah Ruhof hruhoff@sunherald.com

The transformation of Gulfport and Biloxi

Restaurants and attractions are drawing more people to Pass Road, said Brian Bolis, a commercial real estate specialist with real estate firm NAI Sawyer in Gulfport.

“I think anything positive like that helps,” he said.

More is needed to dress it up and prepare it for the development ahead.

It’s not “the garden,” says Bolis. Manholes and potholes need fixing, he said, and large empty buildings are hard to sell unless they are divided.

“Pass Road has a great opportunity. There is no doubt about it,” he said.

This story was originally published March 16, 2022 12:10 p.m.

Mary Perez has won awards for her articles on business and casinos for the Sun Herald. She also writes about Biloxi, jobs and new restaurants and developments coming to the coast. She’s a fourth-generation journalist.

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