Coast Transit Authority just added more than 500 parking spaces to downtown Gulfport.
The new park and ride transportation center officially opened this week. It's aimed primarily at visitors to the new federal courthouse across the street.
Supportets say the transit center will help enhance downtown Gulfport.
The nearly seven million dollar facility is the latest addition to a changing landscape. Those promoting the CTA facility say the new parking spaces and free shuttle service are a welcome addition to downtown.
Community leaders call the new four story parking garage, "visionary".
"We need to continue to invest in downtown Gulfport. We need to continue to invest in South Mississippi," said 4th District Congressman, Gene Taylor.
The nearly seven million dollar project, across the street from the new federal courthouse, is expected to lift downtown Gulfport to new heights by meeting both parking and transportation needs.
Kevin Coggin is executive director of Coast Transit Authority.
"This facility is built for present needs and future needs. So, it has excess capacity and as the court continues to grow and the community continues to grow, we'll be in a good position to support that growth with parking and transportation needs in downtown Gulfport," said Coggin.
Some sixteen thousand square feet of office and retail space will soon fill the bottom floor of the garage. But the big benefit gets back to that familiar refrain.
"Whenever you talk to anybody that has a business downtown, they say the first problem is parking. You've got to solve that problem before downtown can take off. So, this is part of the solution," said John Harral, with the Downtown Gulfport Association.
To many downtown merchants, the most exciting part of the new parking garage is the "free" CTA shuttle which makes a continuous loop through the heart of downtown every eight to ten minutes.
"Anything that brings energy to downtown Gulfport is good," said merchant, Andrea Yeager.
Business owners are counting on the new shuttle carrying customers to their front doors.
"Yes, I would have liked it on the west side, but when they're taking the shuttle around, they can stop off here. They can stop off at Sandpiper, they can stop off at Port City. Any other places. Markham Cafe. So, this is good for all of us," said Yeager.
The downtown shuttle is free, but there is a charge to park in the new garage. It costs one dollar an hour, seven dollars a day or thirty five dollars a month.