D’Iberville’s city attorney was involved in several land transfers related to a shopping center development heavily funded by a now-defunct state program.

Fred “Dub” Hornsby III is D’Iberville’s city attorney and prosecutor. He and his law firm were involved in several swaps between the city of D’Iberville and Coast developer Bob Mandal’s company that owns several car dealerships in the city, including two that are on the site of the new development. 

His firm also helped with several transfers that didn’t involve city government, including a swap with some city-owned land for the site of one of Mandal’s former dealerships in 2016. The city bought and later sold back to Mandal land bordering the interstate that was supposed to be the site of a now-defunct aquarium, Ocean Expo.

Attorneys are often tasked with property transfers in Mississippi as deeds exchange from a buyer to a seller. Hornsby’s firm wasn’t the only law firm taking part, as several others participated in the land transfers involved with the Galleria development.

The Gulf Coast Galleria is being developed by Mandal and Rise Partners of Chattanooga — which took over for original partner CBL Properties — at an 80-acre site located at the junction of Interstates 10 and 110, which connects the primary highway with downtown Biloxi and the beaches at its terminus at U.S. 90. 

According to WXXV TV, the development’s first phase is supposed to be completed by summer 2020. 

Two of Mandal’s limited liability companies — Ramco Developments and TAC of D’Iberville —joined Popps Ferry Road LLC to buy up lots that bordered the interstate along Popps Ferry Road and D’Iberville Boulevard. 

Popps Ferry Road was a Chattanooga-based LLC that was set up by Rise Partners. Both Ramco and TAC are listed on the Mississippi Secretary of State’s website as being Mandal-owned firms.

Some of the land transfers on the Galleria property that Hornsby’s firm participated included: 

  • July 25, 2011– A transfer of two parcels from Ramco Developments to the city of D’Iberville that later became part of the Galleria property.
  • February 20, 2012 – Transfer of a parcel from George Wilkins to Ramco Developments.
  • February 19, 2013– A transfer of a parcel from Victor Igich to TAC of D’Iberville.
  • April 30, 2013 – A transfer of a parcel between Popps Ferry Road LLC. and TAC of D’Iberville.
  • November 1, 2013– A transfer from five owners of a parcel to TAC of D’Iberville.

The Mississippi cultural retail attraction program died in the Mississippi legislature in 2016, when the authorizing law expired without passage of an extension, but the Galleria is still approved to receive $96 million from the program.

The Galleria project was authorized on December 19, 2013 by the MDA, with a minimum required investment of $50 million and an estimate of a $320 million capital investment by the developers.

The Galleria received its third extension from the Mississippi Development Authority in July 2018 that moves the deadline for the start of construction to 2022. That’s nine years after the project was authorized in 2013 and six years after the program ended. 

D’Iberville provided $2 million in a tax-increment financing bond to build two car dealerships on the site, also owned by Mandal. The city also provided $16 million to build five- and six-lane roads that feed into the Galleria site.

MDA and the Federal Highway Administration spent $50 million to rebuild the interchange at interstate 10 and Galleria Boulevard.

Under the cultural retail attraction program, Mississippi returns 80 percent of the sales tax revenue to the developer until the total reaches 30 percent of construction costs. Each retail project in the program must offer either $1 million worth of state-related art, historic markers or audio-visual equipment, or host space for the MDA for 10 years for tourism promotion purposes.