The rejuvenation of downtown Gulfport will take a big step forward today when the historic Gulfport Train Depot reopens for the first time in many years.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the depot and new businesses located there will begin at 4 p.m. and the celebration will continue until 6 p.m. with a free wine and food reception. James Gillies will provide music for the event. Two new restaurants in the downtown, Cruise Seafood and Murky Waters BBQ & Blues, will provide the food.
"We're really happy to get that historic structure open again as part of the expansion of downtown," said Mayor George Schloegel. The city spent $550,000 on the building on 27th Avenue.
Gulfport has leased the space in the building to Tanya Tancredi Salon, Back on the Rack Upscale Resale clothing store, Vintage Vault and Sean Smith Photography.
Schloegel said the depot has basically been unoccupied since the trains stopped running, although it did serve as the site of Centennial Museum for a few years around 1998.
The depot was built in 1904, according to Sun Herald archives.
In 1995, Gulfport received a $100,000 grant from the state Department of Economic and Community Development and provided a $40,000 match to renovate the station and turn it into a hub for Coast train, bus, taxi and shuttle traffic. Bids for the work came in at more than $385,000 and the city eventually spent $250,000 on renovations.
At that time, most of the building had been vacant for five years. Coast Transit Authority buses stopped at the depot and only the lobby was open for passengers on Amtrak's Sunset Limited line, which stopped six times a week in Gulfport on its route between Los Angeles and Miami. The last Gulf Coast Limited rolled through Gulfport in April 1997.
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