GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - The old Harrison County Library has been transformed into a CTA hub. And it will officially open for business in its new capacity on Monday. The bottom area is the for transit customers; small office space; some retail space that will be leased; and public communal area.
The second floor of the building provides office space for the Mississippi Aquarium.
CTA Executive Director Kevin Coggin said while the space is new, it should feel familiar.
“Anybody that was in this building years and years ago, when they walk in, they’re going to recognize it and it’s going to bring back those memories.” said Coggin.
The CTA didn’t have to take the extra care.
“This building could have been taken down,” Coggin said. “We didn’t have to do the restoration.”
But it did, and it’s now a registered historic building.
“We tried to replicate everything as it was original and we have all those pictures,” said Coggins. “The staircase has been restored - that was a major function, the tiles.”
The interior tiles are original from the building that was erected in 1966. And about 40 percent of the original exterior tiles were saved. The rest had to be fabricated to match.
“If I didn’t tell you there was some replication, you wouldn’t even know it,” Coggin said. “It looks seamless. It all looks original.”
And those well-loved koi ponds are back, which will be re-stocked at some point. To do all of this wasn’t easy.
“It was a big challenge,” he said. “We worked through the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. It was very difficult to overcome all those hurdles.”
And it wasn’t cheap. The outside tile work alone was $500,000. Overall, the $10 million in renovations were done with federal transit money, and Coggin said it’s worth the investment.
“This is a good example of what CTA does to support economic development and the economy in the community,” said Coggin. “The Aquarium is a major economic development. It’s going to be an economic engine, and so we compliment that.”
The new center will be open when buses are running from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.