By JULIA MILLER
Biloxi Mayor Andrew “Fo Fo” Gillich’s vision of a revitalized downtown has taken another step foward with the announcement of Machado Patano and M | P Design Group’s plans to renovate a 21,000 square-foot warehouse across from MGM Park.
Jamie Barhanovich, Machado Patano’s business manager, said current plans are to relocate both the engineering firm Machado Patano, PLLC, and M | P Design Group’s headquarters to 918 Howard Ave and carve out about 7,000 square feet to sublease. The space, which will be available for anything from a restaurant to offices, will include a street view as well as access from Howard Avenue. The remaining 14,000 square feet will house the 30 employees of the two Machado Patano companies.
“The owners [of Machado Patano] want to see the restoration of downtown and get rid of all these eyesores in downtown,” Barhanovich said.
Right now, the building is just a structure and will need to be fully gutted. Much of the building was damaged during Hurricane Katrina. The area was struck by 30 to 35 feet of water during the 2005 storm.
“It was destroyed and has been sitting there for 12 years,” Barhanovich said. “It looks like a haunted house. It’s huge.”
All design work is being handled inhouse, and plans include salvaging the monumental staircase and adding a balcony overlooking Howard Avenue.
Prior to Katrina, the building was home to Merchiston Hall as a retail space and warehouse. Merchiston Hall bought the building in the 1970s. Before that it held a car dealership.
The city of Biloxi unveiled it’s five-year plan for downtown restoration in July, but Barhanvich said the purchase and planning for Machado Patano has been in the works all year. Machado Patano is currently bidding out subcontractors, but it anticipates a cost between $1.7 and $1.8 million. It hopes to break ground in the fourth quarter, with approximately one-year of construction.
This project will be taking place alongside the city of Biloxi’s Saenger Theatre renovation as well as the conversion of Howard Avenue to four-lanes.
Gillich took office after a special election in 2015, and he has been pushing for a return to the old downtown ever since.
“We’re at the precipice of what we need to do,” he said. “I’ve only been mayor for two years, but I’ve been in Biloxi my whole life.”
As a baby boomer, Gillich has vivid memories of the life and activity of downtown prior to the Urban Renewal projects of the 1970s. The city’s plan and Machado Patano’s project are among the first steps to see a renewal to Biloxi’s downtown area.
Machado | Patano was established in 2007 by David J. Machado, who later partnered with Brad P. Patano and Gerrod W. Kilpatrick. The interdisciplinary engineering firm works with a variety of sectors, including municipal, industrial, marine, federal, educational, transportation, commercial retail, medical and hospitality. The design studio works to fulfill their clients’ visions through master planning, site analysis, cost estimation, programing, conceptual and architectural design, architectural 3D renderings, interior design construction administration and management.