- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 7, 2015

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) - The Harrison County Board of Supervisors has transferred ownership of Downtown Gulfport’s old library building to the city.

The building will be part of a major aquarium and transit project. The supervisors approved the transfer Monday.

The Sun Herald reports (http://bit.ly/1a192Fz ) that the building, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, is a state landmark and also is qualified for the National Register of Historic Places.

The county and city have been in talks for years to transfer ownership to the city, which wanted to save the building, but couldn’t without Federal Emergency Management Agency approval.

The Coast Transit Authority is applying for a federal transportation grant and has committed to spending $7.5 million to renovate the building, work on its adjacent parking garage and build an elevated highway crossover for pedestrians, bikes and a tram.

The entire aquarium project will sit on about 12 acres. The city is working on acquiring public funding and private partners for the project.

Mayor Billy Hewes has said the library would become a welcome center and transit area for residents and tourists who visit the aquarium and Gulfport’s waterfront.

Gulfport has spent more than $14 million into downtown facade restorations and landscaping and about $40 million spent on the harbor. Katrina relief funds paid for most of those improvements.

The city needs to find up to $80 million more if cost estimates for the project are accurate. Hewes is banking on funding from the Restore Act that coast localities expect to receive as a result of the BP oil spill.

The state is providing $24.5 million from a bond bill awaiting the governor’s signature.

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Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com

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