The Waveland Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Monday hosted a meeting with representatives of Orion Planning + Design to discuss the “Hwy. 90 Refocus.” 

Bob Barber with Orion Group said that the city engaged the group through Mississippi Power to look at the Hwy. 90 corridor in terms of future economic development and redevelopment. 

Barber said that Orion has done planning work across the country, including the Mississippi Gulf Coast, for the past several years. 

“We have found the area incredibly dynamic, very forward-thinking and it is a really good experience for us,” Barber said. 

Barber said the purpose of Monday’s meeting was to give the board an overview and objective data about the Hwy. 90 corridor. 

“The corridor initiative is one we began discussing almost a year ago now,” he said. “The idea was to take a look at a strategically important place not only in Waveland but Hancock County and that is what you know as the Hwy. 90 corridor. It serves in many respects as downtown Hancock County. It’s very, very valuable to the city and the county at large. It’s an important place, it’s where people do lots and lots and lots of commerce. And there are opportunities in that corridor for even more, we believe.” 

The center of the corridor is the intersection of Hwy. 603 and Hwy. 90 and the boundary extends to Bay St. Louis on the east side and to Waveland-Kiln Cutoff Road on the west side, Barber said. 

“It encompasses some of your highest, most active commercial properties,” Barber said. “It encompasses some of your most dead commercial properties.” 

Barber discussed details in relation to several points: Environmental; how land is used in the corridor; economics; mobility characteristics; overall characteristics; and initial survey data. 

With regards to floodplain, Barber said that after a survey of impervious and pervious surfaces (what’s paved and not paved in the corridor), there’s “lots of stormwater management challenges related to the corridor.”

With regard to land use, Barber said the corridor is “overwhelmingly” commercial. 

The entirety of the corridor is about 250 acres, he said. About 30 percent of the highway corridor is vacant. There is one primary public use facility in the corridor which is the Waveland fire station. 

Fifty-three percent of the corridor is highway commercial, meaning “heavily oriented to automobile traffic.” 

There is 73 acres of vacant land in the corridor, Barber said. 

“When we see vacant land like that and we see a dynamic corridor, lots of value, lots of stuff happening, we see opportunity,” he said. 

About 58 percent of the corridor, as it relates to building floor space, is devoted to retail use. The remainder of the uses is split among service commercial and a mix of office and retail. About 708,000 square feet of retail space is the Lowe’s, Walmart, Claiborne Hill, and other miscellaneous retailers, Barber said. 

With regard to economics, Barber said that there are about 600 people working in the corridor. 

“It’s a big employer,” he said. 

Barber said that the data compiled on the retail sales given is about four years old, but said that the group plans to obtain the more current data. 

Four years ago, the number of retail dollars was $63 million, Barber said. 

“Nearly all of it is surplus dollars,” he said. “Which means people are driving into the community to spend their money in that corridor.” 

Barber said that the retail sales is higher than that now. 

“But none the less, let’s use $63 million in retail sales and spread it over 708,000 square feet of retail space,” Barber said. “That would give you a current sales of about $90 per square foot. Is that good? Is that bad? How do we assess that? A Walmart that is really, really doing well on average will trade at about $300 a square foot. If we were to conservatively say there’s lots of other factors in the corridor. Let’s just double it. We think you could reasonably expect sales possibly as much at least two times that’s occurring there now.” 

Bert Kuyrkendall with Orion spoke about the mobility aspects of the corridor. 

Both of the main routes are MDOT (Mississippi Department of Transportation) or state routes, he said, and Orion will be meeting with MDOT representatives this week. 

“There are about 24,000 cars per day on the eastern end of the corridor,” Kuyrkendall said. “It goes down to about 18,000 on the western side. Those are pretty big numbers, but not huge numbers.” 

Some of the items he said they will be looking at as they relate to corridor mobility include enabling more access besides driving and providing safer ways to cross the street. 

“Crossings are a big deal,” Kuyrkendall said. “There are a lot of things that people walk to or could walk to in the corridor. How can this primary commercial corridor connect to the rest of the city? There’s lots of neighborhoods on both sides of 90. How can folks connect from the neighborhood to the corridor itself? In the area, there’s a lot of people walking, biking, a lot of people using golf carts to get around. But, currently the way the corridor is configured, it’s a barrier to that. Another big factor in that is curb cut management. When there are a lot of curb cuts, it makes driving less safe on the corridor. It makes walking less safe and it can actually kind of confuse access and make it more difficult to access businesses. We’ll be looking at some of those concepts. How can there be more cross connection potentially between businesses and also how can we create more of a continuous corridor experience for driving, walking, and biking, and all the different modes of traveling?” 

Lastly, Barber spoke of the experience one has traveling down the corridor. 

Barber showed photographs captured by a drone of what can be seen upon entering the Hwy. 90 corridor. 

“Looking at the 603 and 90 interaction, you’ll see the dead motel on the left there where the lazy river thing is and the Rite Aid on the right,” Barber said. “Then we begin to tune into some of the elements that are perhaps distracting, that don’t quite convey the value that is the reality that’s out in that corridor. We note the signs, the abandonment of the signs and some of the buildings that are in need of redevelopment and so forth.” 

Barber said that they are also looking at how the city regulates the corridor from the zoning code perspective as it relates to sign rules; how the landscaping standards are applied and/or enforced; and the design quality and standards. 

Barber also spoke about the non-scientific survey conducted in partnership with the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce and the city of Waveland. The survey consisted of about 16 questions and about 450 people responded. 

Barber said that many of the respondents said that the corridor is well lit, safe to some degree, traffic controls are “alright” and the speeds are “okay.” 

Lower scoring items included: Quality of the landscaping, the “sense of identity in the corridor,” and signage,” he said. 

Barber said that survey respondents would like to see improvement in areas such as landscaping, infrastructure, bike access, desire to address the vacant and abandoned buildings, the identity of the corridor, beautification, need for a “branded hotel,” etc. 

In terms of what businesses would make complimentary additions to the corridor, Barber said, respondents said they would like to see coffee shops, and arts and culture type businesses, more restaurants, and entertainment. 

Barber said that he and his team will be in Waveland this week meeting with business owners in the corridor, MDOT officials, and also creating a framework to address the corridor. 

Barber said that he also wants to be able to position the city to apply for the coastal funds that are available for infrastructure improvements. 

Barber said that the team will have more specifics and concepts to present at Thursday’s meeting. 

The public will also have an opportunity to provide commentary and input on the corridor this Thursday, Dec. 16, during a second special meeting with Orion Group. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in the boardroom at City Hall, located at 301 Coleman Ave. 

The survey can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CMLRWTM

Learn more about Orion Group at www.orionplanningdesign.com.

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