By Mary Perez
Family attractions — something residents have craved since Hurricane Katrina — finally came flooding back to the Coast in 2018.
A bountiful selection of new restaurants and coffee shops opened. New hotels are under construction and Biloxi got its first new movie theater in years.
Here are the big openings and closings on the Coast in 2018:
▪ The $15 million Ocean Adventures debuted in Gulfport and lets visitors discover what it’s like to swim with a shark.
▪ Infinity Science Center virtually takes visitors to explore the bottom of the sea in the Deep Ocean Explorer, which is part of a $10 million expansion.
▪ Biloxi got high-speed Finishline go-karts and its first new movie theater in decades when Premiere Cinema opened at Edgewater Mall.
▪ Ship Island Excursions began sailing from East Biloxi as well as Gulfport. The Betsy Ann riverboat cruised along the Biloxi shoreline.
▪ A $16 million Marine Education Center and Gulf Coast Research at Cedar Point in Oceans Springs has an amazing swinging suspension bridge as one of its attractions.
New restaurants & bars
▪ Bayview Cafe opened at IP Casino with self-serve wine tasting machine
▪ Chicken Salad Chick at The Promenade in D’Iberville is something new for the Coast
▪ New coffee shops are Jacked Up in Biloxi, Bright Eyed Brew Co. in Ocean Springs and PJ’s Coffee in Bay St. Louis
▪ Saltgrass Steak House in Biloxi, across from Golden Nugget Casino, has been packed since it opened during Cruisin’ The Coast.
▪ Central Station Bistro on Central Ave. in Bay St. Louis
▪ New Mexican restaurants are La Rumba Mexican Grill in Diamondhead and El Gallo Mexican Restaurant in Kiln
▪ Godfather’s Pizza at Loves Travel Stop in Biloxi
▪ Jimmy John’s, already operating in Biloxi, opens another sandwich shop in Gulfport
▪ Singing River Hospital Cafe reopens after makeover. Many fast food restaurants also got a total makeover.
▪ The opening of a non-smoking casino at Island View Casino in Gulfport also brings new restaurants with great views of the water.
▪ The restored Lovelace Drugstore and Soda Fountain in Ocean Springs has its grand opening.
▪ Marco’s Pizza in Biloxi
▪ Thomas Genin, who owns The Blind Tiger and its five locations, opens The Harbor Bar and RAW Oyster Bar in Bay St. Louis.
▪ Mugshots restaurant moved to downtown Gulfport, and El Saltillo moved a few spaces down to its former location in Edgewater Village.
▪ Brackish Waters restaurant in Moss Point opened in June.
▪ A speakeasy, The Wilbur at The Roost Boutique Hotel in Ocean Springs, comes with an entrance hidden behind a bookcase.
▪ Miami rapper Pitbull comes to Biloxi to open his first iLOV305 bar at Hard Rock Casino Biloxi
▪ Live Oak Lounge opens amid the trees in downtown Biloxi
▪ Old Navy opens at The Promenade in D’Iberville.
▪ Three major national outlets open at Gulfport Factory Outlets — H&M Clothing Store, Kate Spade and Vera Bradley
▪ Pav & Broome reveals a $2 million expansion and renovation
▪ Roses Express discount store opens next to Rouses Market in Gulfport
▪ Negrotto’s new gallery opens on Carl Legett Road, Gulfport
▪ Goodwill Super Store are opening across the Coast in Long Beach and Biloxi and coming to Ocean Springs
It wasn’t just openings that made the news in 2018. Several businesses closed, among them:
▪ Tulane University and Virginia College, both in Biloxi and both with dropping enrollments
▪ Winn-Dixie on Pass Road in Biloxi
▪ O’Neals Seafood Restaurant on East Pass Road in Gulfport
▪ Alston’s Antiques and Gifts on U.S. 49 in Gulfport, which had been in business about 37 years
▪ Backyard Burger on U.S. 49 in Gulfport
▪ Dapper Pig men’s boutique in Long Beach
▪ The Dock restaurant in Gulfport was changed from a restaurant to a catering and event venue
▪ Coast Nightclub at Beau Rivage Casino closed and became a dueling piano bar until it was remodeled into a sports book and bar.
Coming to the Coast
More big projects are on the way. Here’s the list of the major development:
▪ Land is being cleared in D’Iberville in the area where Gulf Coast Galleria shopping center is proposed.
▪ The $93 million Mississippi Aquarium is going up along U.S. 90 in Gulfport and is scheduled to open in late 2019 or early 2020.
▪ Margaritaville Resort Biloxi is getting a $200 million expansion, with an amusement park, waterpark and two hotels on the way.
▪ Barrington Development, the same company operating Margaritaville, is building a Holiday Inn that will open next year at Centennial Plaza in Gulfport and is restoring the Markham Hotel in downtown Gulfport and the former Santa Maria tower into the Watermark suites hotel in downtown Biloxi.
▪ Fun Times USA was washed away by Katrina but the amusement park is making a comeback, this time in Biloxi
▪ Rouses Market will move down the street in Gulfport to a remodeled store
▪ A more modern Waffle House is under construction in East Biloxi
▪ Hard Rock Biloxi is bringing to the Coast the 24th Sugar Factory American Brasserie eatery in the world.
▪ The ugly old Federal Building in downtown Biloxi was demolished to make way for new Community Bank
▪ The third Taco Sombrero Mexican restaurant on the Coast is under construction near Ocean Springs.
▪ Also coming to Ocean Springs is a new Aldi supermarket, Inlet mixed-use development, a new and improved Woody’s Roadhouse that is going up behind the current restaurant and a sprawling assisted living facility on Ocean Springs Road
▪ Sky Zone Trampoline Park will be opening next year at Edgewater Mall, and a Brick & Spoon restaurant outside the mall.
▪ New Orleans Saints great Deuce McAllister is partnering with Ballard Brands to open Ole Saint at Boomtown Casino Biloxi.
▪ Three performing arts centers are on the way — a $15 million, high-tech center theater under construction in Pascagoula, a 900-seat performance center at Biloxi High School and a 1,200 seat facility at the Jeff Davis campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
Top building permits for 2018
The Treen Report shows that more than $186 million in building permits were issued for commercial projects on the Coast this year. The largest are:
$51 million for Mississippi Aquarium in Gulfport
$15.5 million for the Blake assisted living center in Biloxi
$14.7 million for performing arts center in Pascagoula
$6.5 million for Premier Cinema at Edgewater Mall
$5.5 million for Race Trac service station on Washington Avenue, Ocean Springs
$4.3 million for four-story hotel at Anchor Plaza on Daniel Boulevard in Gulfport