GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Coast Transit Authority is making plans to save the old library building in downtown Gulfport. As part of the proposed aquarium project, CTA would restore the storm-damaged library, which would then become part of a transportation center.
Supporters of the old library fought for years to try and save the historic structure. And it looks like it may be Coast Transit Authority to the rescue.
The CTA garage next door would provide parking, with the restored library becoming an intermodal transportation hub.
"We would manage the parking for the new aquarium, we would manage all the tour buses, all the charter buses. And this facility is also going to be a very friendly pedestrian mall here," said CTA Director Kevin Coggin.
A $6 million federal grant will fund the lion's share of the $7.6 million library restoration.
"We would maintain the architectural integrity of the library, the look of the library. The ground floor would be open air, a pedestrian way and a passenger waiting area. A staging area for transportation," said Coggin.
The aquarium would be built on city-owned land across the street. Gulfport has secured $25 million from casino tax revenue.
"It's not just an aquarium for Gulfport or the gulf coast. This is a Mississippi aquarium. This will be something that's good for the state. All of us are going to benefit from it. And twenty five million is a start for this aquarium. But it's going to be a tremendous boost to the state of Mississippi," said Rep. Richard Bennett.
Another part of the CTA plan is a seven million dollar project to build a pedestrian and tram overpass across Highway 90, linking the aquarium site on the north side, with Jones Park to the south.
But the library restoration will come first. Design plans could be ready by the end of this year.
"Us being able to take over and renovate this building is a win-win for the CTA and the city," said Coggin.
The next step for the aquarium project is a marketing and feasibility study. The total cost for the aquarium could be around $100 million.