GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - After being put on pause for a short while, the project to transform the old Harrison County library in downtown Gulfport into a public transit center is moving forward.
Construction crews are hard at work at the old library building, and it’s a sight many have been anxious to see. Coast Transit Authority executive director Kevin Coggin admits the project to renovate the historic building got off to a slow start.
But he stresses the process to breathe new life into a Mississippi landmark is one that takes time.
“We had to overcome some hurdles and get approvals from Mississippi Department of Archives and History about some specific items, some exterior tile that’s no longer made. So, we’re trying to preserve some things that are no longer made, and we’re going to be successful in doing that,” he said.
As the $9 million project moves forward, Coggin said preserving the building and even the site itself is important. The driveway for the bus operations hub has been designed around the old oak trees surrounding the building.
“We’ve had overwhelming positive support from the community. People have memories, we hear all the time, of the library. They love it," said Coggin. "It’s going to look just like it did when you went to school there and was studying there. So, we think people are going to be really pleased.”
The first floor, which will feature a waiting area and a food court, will also house public displays showcasing the history of the building and of Gulfport.
Despite the delays to get fully started, Coggin said the project is still on schedule to be complete by January, and most importantly, before the Mississippi Aquarium next door opens its doors.
“More and more development, more and more people come here. We’re involved in the planning from the infancy of it and excited about it. And it’s just great to see the aquarium being built. It’s going to be a catalyst for a lot of great things on this part of town," he said.
CTA is also in the process of finding additional funding for the $10 million pedestrian bridge that will connect the aquarium and transit center with Jones Park. Only a third of that project is currently funded. Coggin expects once its fully funded, construction on the bridge will take about a year.