Developers revised plans for a two-hotel project in Biloxi to appease neighbors, who on Thursday said they still want no part of the $32 million beach development called Oak Grove Hotels.
The neighbors didn’t object to the 40-room Aqua Suites Hotel along the front of the property at 1252 Beach Blvd. It is west of White Avenue and has Spanish colonial mission style architecture, a pool and a rooftop terrace for sunset views.
What local residents take issue with is the 108-room Marriott Residence Inn extended stay hotel. It would be built near the center of the lot in the second phase of development by Harrison County Lodging Development of Ridgeland.
The revised plans for the Residence Inn call for articulation of the exterior, an architectural design that would provide a consistent pattern along the entire face of the building, said Neil Polen, an architect with Dale Partners Architects in Biloxi.
The design comes from the city’s architectural guidelines presented to all developers in Biloxi historic districts.
Biloxi Planning Commission has voted in favor of the hotel development. The Tree Committee also supported the project. On Thursday, the Architectural and Historical Review Commission, which twice tabled action, added its approval of the design, with commissioners Arlene Canaan and Karen Staehling voting against it.
The proposal goes to the city council Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. for a deciding vote.
The 3.8-acre property has been vacant 17 years since Hurricane Katrina.
Like many other disputes between neighbors and commercial developments proposed along the beach in Biloxi since the hurricane, this pits the developers against local homeowners, who want the land to be residential.
Neighbors on Father Ryan Avenue north of the site and in the nearby “holy land” streets told the AHRC the hotels will encroach on their properties and disturb the feel of the historic neighborhood
Among their other concerns are that the hotels will increase traffic on their streets, will have people staying in the six-story hotel looking down into their yards and will block the air flow off the Mississippi Sound and the water views.
The developers, represented by Attorney Gerald Blessey, countered that the larger hotel is 200 feet south of Father Ryan Avenue and will have a tree canopy over much of the site. Much of the parking will be on the north side as a buffer between the buildings and the neighborhood. All traffic, including deliveries, will use the entrance at the southwest corner of the property.
The gate between the hotel parking lot and Father Ryan will be locked at all times to vehicles and pedestrians, he said. Only emergency first responders will be able to open the gate, and only if the main entrance is blocked. A deed restriction will ensure that emergency access covenant, he said.
Father Ryan Avenue is not included in the West Biloxi Historic District, Blessey said. The property was residential before Katrina, but Blessey said it now has a condo development immediately to the west and the owner of White House Hotel plans to build a second hotel and events center directly to the east.
What about the Biloxi trees?
Without any zoning change, developers could build a four-story apartment complex on the site, but Blessey said that would require expanding the footprint of the buildings.
Building up rather than out limits the trees that would need to be cut, he said. The hotels were sited on the property to keep as many of the trees as possible and save all of the majestic oak trees.
“Sprawl or go tall,” is how Community Development Director Jerry Creel described the development choice. Of the 65 trees on the property, he said, the proposed hotel development saves 56 of them.
Creel said the design and height of the Residence Inn are consistent with Hyatt Place, Hampton Inn and Hilton Garden Inn in that area along U.S. 90.
The residents fighting for their neighborhood and the developers trying to make concessions and a profit will have another chance to present their sides Tuesday to the Biloxi City Council.
This story was originally published April 18, 2022 7:30 AM.