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Condos, restaurants, boutiques: Why this road on the Mississippi coast is a hot spot for new development | Entertainment/Life


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Cowan Road is known by Mississippi Gulf Coast locals as the best way to get from the interstate to the beach in Gulfport, and now it’s one of the hottest areas for development in South Mississippi.

Woody’s Roadside Grill, which already has restaurants in Biloxi and Ocean Springs, soon will open in a third location on Cowan Road. Several more restaurants, shops, medical offices and other businesses are under construction.

A waterfront condo development is coming just off Cowan at Magnolia Street, bringing more customers to these new businesses.

Brax Clark is building a new plaza at the opposite corner of Cowan Road at Magnolia.

Clark owns Bin 605 Fine Wine and Spirits and will move the store to this new location — right next door — in six to eight months.

“It was created for my business,” he said of the distinctive white complex that fronts both roads. He needed more room for his store.

His other tenants will be professional offices, a small section of retail and a restaurant, which he said will start moving there in the next 60 to 90 days.

He’s been in business on Cowan Road for about 17 years and said the location is very different than when he started.

“A lot more traffic — it’s the main corridor,” he said.

The popular chain of travel centers known as Buc-ee’s is officially coming to South Mississippi.


Mayor Billy Hewes said Cowan Road “has really developed into a quite a retail and medical corridor.” Hewes was a state senator when legislation passed to fund the improvements to the road that is part of a scenic byway that extends from Gulfport to Saucier.

The investment is paying off for Gulfport. Limited access means there aren’t nearly as many traffic lights on Cowan as on the U.S. 49 north-south corridor, Hewes said. Mississippi Department of Transportation has to approve any curb cuts on Cowan and Hewes said service roads connect businesses to these limited access points.

Officially it is Mississippi 605, but locals know it as Lorraine Road north of the seaway, where most of the businesses are industrial and manufacturing. The area south of that, where it becomes Cowan Road, is where strip centers keep sprouting with similar brick architecture to give the road a unified and attractive appearance.

Those who live near Cowan or commute through that area are are enticed by the variety of new businesses that have opened.

During lunch they can shop the Pecan House for goodies or a new outfit at the adjacent stores The Fly Boutique and Dressed in Blue. They can stop for a pizza or to socialize at one of the restaurants after work. Yoga studios and gyms a located also opened along the stretch of road.

Woody's roadside

A new Woody’s Roadside Grill is under construction on Cowan Road in Gulfport on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022. Photo via Sun Herald. Hannah Ruhoff HRUHOFF@SUNHERALD.COM


“(Highway) 605 is seen as a big-time opportunity zone,” Hewes said.

A sign posted along the west side of Cowan Road at Magnolia shows where Owen & Co. Real Estate plans to build Magnolia Plaza between Pass Road and the Kramer bridge.

“We have a strip center designed,” said Sherry Owen. Plans call for a 22,000 square foot building, and since posting the sign at the site, she’s had lots of interest.

“I have a whole folder of people who want to go in,” she said, such as owners of coffee shops, restaurants, gyms and medical offices.

The cost of materials to build has about doubled in the months it’s taken to get the project designed and ready, she said, but she’s bullish on the site. Her company bought the parcel across the street on the water and plans to locate the parking on the north side of the building, “just to keep that view open for everyone,” she said.

The property has four entry and access points to make it easy in and out on the busy Cowan Road, which she said is a huge plus.

“The traffic count there is unbelievable,” she said.

Magnolia Plaza

The rendering of Magnolia Plaza by Machado Patano shows the strip center that will be built at the corner of Cowan Road and Magnolia in Gulfport. The corridor from I-10 to the beach is one of the most attractive for new development in South Mississippi. Courtesy of Owen & Co. Real Estate


Data from Gulf Regional Planning and Development and MDOT shows about 32,000 vehicles a day traveled Cowan Road from the Wilkes Bridge to near Pass Road in 2020. That’s down only 2,000 during the pandemic, when many people started working at home. The numbers for 2021 are not yet available.

For the next six months, drivers will have to contend with traffic delays as the Wilkes Bridge is repaired and the road is down to one lane in each direction at the drawbridge, from Reichold to Hillcrest Road.

Even with this amount of traffic, Cowan Road is the preferred access road from the interstate to Pass Road and Beach Boulevard.

“Nobody wants to fight 49 to go to the beach,” said Sam Ford, who sells commercial real estate for Coldwell Banker Alfonso Realty. The company built its headquarters on Cowan Road several years ago before development started ramping up and made the building large enough for other offices to locate there.

The opening of Marina Cantina restaurant on Cowan Road in 2020, during the pandemic, has expanded growth in that area beyond strip centers that attract retail and professional offices.

“We want to be the spot where you know you’re going to eat and hang out awhile,” said owner Thomas Genin. They have parking for cars, boats and jet skis and for the golf carts and bicycles neighbors ride from nearby housing communities.

Most of the existing homes are tucked in neighborhoods well off Cowan Road. A new development of three bedroom, two bath condos being marketed by Century 21 J. Carter & Company will be built of concrete, with views over the water and will be readily accessible just off Cowan Road.


Ford said he bought vacant land near Doctor’s Nutrition on the lower part of Cowan Road from Pass Road to the beach

“I haven’t done anything with it simply because I was waiting for that area to build up,” he said.

That is happening now, as Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and other stores drive more traffic to the shopping center where K-mart used to be at the corner of Cowan and Pass Road.

Hewes said new business and residential projects, along with paving more than 100 miles of roads in the city, are on the way.

Investors and developers from other areas are discovering Gulfport, he said, “and they want to be part of that growth.”

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