‘The Last Eyesore’

  Waveland Fire Chief David Garcia says Our Shopping Center in Waveland is a serious fire and safety hazard in a letter to the board of aldermen. The dilapidated plaza is filled with debris and even has homeless people living inside.


The once thriving “Our Shopping Center” on Highway 90 in Waveland is now in “deplorable” condition, officials say, and a serious safety hazard to anyone who may enter the dilapidated buildings.

Waveland Fire Chief David Garcia informed the mayor and board of aldermen of the facility’s condition in a letter dated January 25, 2010.

Garcia’s study confirmed what many have suspected since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the facility in August 2005–that the plaza must either be torn down or have an extensive amount of work done to bring it up to acceptable standards.

“It’s the last real eyesore on the highway,” Mayor Tommy Longo said Friday. “Something needs to happen quickly.”

Prior to Katrina, Our Shopping Center was home to the Waveland Market, Fred’s, Dollar General, a Cuban restaurant, Mexican restaurant, a tobacco and beer shop, barber shop, and more.

Today, only a hollow shell and empty storefronts remain at the 11.6 acre site.

According to Garcia, homeless people have been living inside the hollow buildings, which are filled with graffiti, trash, and debris.

“It is of my opinion that hazard conditions do exist at this building,” Garcia said. “The hazard further exists to firefighters who may be called upon to enter the unsecured building for the purpose of controlling or extinguishing a fire, or rescuing trapped occupants that may have entered.”

The findings that the facility is a fire and safety hazard only compound the problems of the plaza as a whole.

Before it can be sold, Longo said, past environmental issues at the site must be completed and paid for.

Tax records show the owner of the plaza is Dr. Don Eagan of Colorado, but it was the former gas station at the site, which has caused a state and federal environmental cleanup.

Some time prior to Katrina, leakage from fuel lines at the Phillips 66 gas station in the northern portion of the plaza contaminated the area.

After the Mississippi Department of Environment Quality was informed of the leaks, the state contracted engineering firm Earth-Con to try to clean up the mess.

Earth-Con has had a white trailer stationed at the site for the past few years to pump contaminated ground water and air from the site and treat them.

Longo said that the Phillips 66 station was independently operated and has since gone bankrupt, leaving the property owner stuck with the cleanup bill.

Longo said the clean-up of the property is almost complete, but either the property owner or the potential buyer must pay for it before any development can performed at the property.

“That has always been the hold-up with the property,” he said. “The owner of the property is ultimately liable.”

MDEQ’s cleanup of the property is being done under a federal LUST (Leaking Underground Storage Tank) trust fund.

The trust fund provides money to oversee the cleanup and enforce any corrective action to the responsible party.

Estimates on the cleanup costs vary, but Longo said the costs have made the sale of the property difficult.

“They could tear down the buildings right now, but they cannot rebuild anything until the clean-up is complete and the government is repaid,” Longo said.

The city could actually condemn the buildings and pay to have them torn down, but that would cost a substantial amount of cash that the city does not have, Longo said.

Longo said he has talked to Eagan recently and he said a sale of the property is pending.

Longo said he believes the new developer is willing to make an investment in Waveland.

“I think he finally understands that it is his liability,” Longo said. “We hope the deal goes through, it will be a good deal for both parties. Regardless, something has to happen quickly.”

The Our Shopping Center was the first shopping center in Waveland and it could provide a big economic boost to the city if it returns, Longo said.

BY: Dwayne Bremer

The Sea Coast Echo

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