By ALEXIS WILLIAMS
Ocean Springs is poised for two new developments, both located on Highway 90, which will bring more jobs, more housing options and more retail to the Gulf Coast city.
In east Ocean Springs, Tractor Supply Co. is currently under construction and plans to open in August. A nationally known brand, Tractor Supply Co. is the largest operator of rural lifestyle retail stores in the country. Its new Ocean Springs store will sell lawn and garden equipment, riding mowers, clothing, footwear, tools, trailers and other accessories.
Fulcrum Construction of Daphne, Ala., is building the new retail space at an estimated construction cost of $1.6 million.
Tractor Supply Co. is taking direct advantage of new water and sewer improvements that Ocean Springs was able to secure using Community Development Block Grants. After Hurricane Katrina, Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran and city officials worked with then-Gov. Haley Barbour to secure the CDBG funding. The city received CDBG funding for the water and sewer implementation in east Ocean Springs — $2.7 million for sewer system engineering, acquisition and construction, and $1.5 million for water.
According to Carolyn Martin, planning and grants administrator for the city of Ocean Springs, Tractor Supply Co. chose this site because of these water and sewer improvements and will benefit directly from the new services.
“The water/sewer project included taps for each property of the new lines, a significant cost savings for future development,” added Martin. Another reason this site was chosen, she says, was because the location is easily accessible to large vehicles, yet also directly adjacent to different businesses and residential areas.
Moran is hoping that Tractor Supply will spur more development in east Ocean Springs. “The reason for slow growth on the eastern part of Highway 90 for years has been lack of water and sewer, and the difficulty of getting permits to build in pine savanna wetlands,” said Moran. “The financial crisis of 2008 slowed development nationwide, but now we are starting to see growth in Ocean Springs.”
In the middle of town, the Inlet, a $10 million retail and condominium space being developed by The Thrash Group of Hattiesburg, just broke ground and construction will begin soon.
According to Moran, The Inlet will include 95 condominiums with one-bedroom options starting just below $200,000 and up to three bedroom units that will sell for $290,000 and above.
The Thrash Group wants to bring amenities to its residents and their plans include a clubhouse, resort-style swimming pool, 24-hour state-of-the-art fitness center, dog park and water views. In addition, there is about 12,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space available that can be configured to meet proprietor’s needs. The Thrash Group is hoping to find retail and services that will enhance the lifestyle of Inlet residents such as a coffee shop, hair and nail salon, restaurant and possibly a dry cleaners.
The new development is located on approximately eight acres, just north of Highway 90 and adjacent to Old Fort Bayou. The Thrash Group donated the adjoining 17 acres to The Land Trust, which hopes will add walking trails.
“The project, at $10 million, is the most significant private investment in Ocean Springs since Hurricane Katrina,” said Moran. “Thrash Development has been active in several states, and we are pleased they chose Ocean Springs for this mixed-use development. We are especially enthusiastic about their partnership with the Land Trust.”
Moran adds that The Land Trust intends to build walking trails as well as a public green space, dependent on available funding. “This is a great example of coupling conservation programs with economic development, and it is perfectly suited to sustainable growth in Ocean Springs,” said Moran.
Although shovels of dirt were ceremonially turned on June 1, Moran expects dirt work to begin at the end of June and construction to take about 18 months.
Moran and Ocean Springs are working to increase development throughout the city, as they rezoned all property along Ocean Springs Road as commercial and extended the Commercial Business District there. This rezoning is so new and expanding businesses could take advantage of property tax abatement as an economic development incentive.
“My plan for growth on the east side of town would include creating a Master Wetlands Permit plan for undeveloped areas, which would be pre-approved by the seven federal and state agencies that currently sign off on any wetlands permit,” said Moran. “It would ensure sustainable development and protection of the watersheds in the area. We must develop a vision, work with the property owners and create a plan for future growth.”