The excitement is building in downtown Gulfport over the proposed Mississippi Aquarium; a project that's expected to be a major tourist attraction and spark additional economic development.
Plans for the Mississippi Aquarium include building a world class facility on a four acre plus site downtown. But the first project-related construction will likely be at the old library building. Coast Transit Authority is converting the historic structure into a multi-modal hub, and a visitors center.
“We are looking to have some historical element there inside the building talking about the history of Gulfport, the harbor. Captain Jones is on the property, we're going to promote that. Just the history of the community,” said CTA director, Kevin Coggin, “We have a grant application in right now for $8.4 million from the Federal Transit Authority to renovate that historic building and convert it into a new, modern inter modal center.”
The existing CTA parking garage will also play a key role in supporting the aquarium project across the street.
“We're anticipating 400 or more cars a day in that garage, and it's going to generate revenue for us. It will be our revenue, enable us to reduce the amount of local operating subsidy we get from the City of Gulfport,” said Coggin.
"It's just one more link for a very vibrant downtown,”
“Lot of excitement, lot of enthusiasm. It's just one more link for a very vibrant downtown,” said Mayor Billy Hewes.
The governor set aside $17 million in BP money for the nearly $100 million project; coupled with $20 million in bond revenue approved by the state legislature.
"The fact the city stepped up in purchasing the land, and being the first to step up to the plate before we asked for any money, Gulfport has skin in the game. And so there's an expectation that we do this right,” said Mayor Hewes.
Construction work on the old library should begin by next summer.
The CTA is also involved in plans for a tram and pedestrian bridge, and an overpass above Highway 90 that will link the aquarium with Jones Park.
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