Despite court order, no security posted at former Battlefield Mall

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 15, 2002

[12/15/02]Eight days after a judge ordered the owners of the former Battlefield Village mall to have 24-hour security at the North Frontage Road building, none has been posted and a $200-a-day fine could be forthcoming.

Chief Keith Rogers said Saturday that Vicksburg Fire Department officials have been checking the vacant building on North Frontage Road since last week’s ruling that security is needed because no functioning fire sprinkler system is in place.

City ordinance requires all commercial buildings, even if vacant, to have working sprinklers. The fire department had cited the owners of the property, calling the structure a safety hazard, and Vicksburg Community Court Judge Mack Varner ruled the security was to begin Dec. 6.

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“We’ve got a serious life issue here, and I can’t back away from that,” Rogers said.

Vacant since 1996, the former mall has been a thorn in the side of the current and previous administrations and has been deemed an “eyesore” by various officials. The latest action was an order to demolish the building issued by the city board, but an owners’ appeal to the Warren County Circuit Court has delayed that order until next year.

A hearing on the city’s motion to dismiss the appeal has been delayed until Jan. 17.

In the meantime, Rogers said he is concerned about the safety of the public as well as firefighters if the building catches fire. One option offered by the building’s owners, J&V Properties of Jackson, was to install a fire alarm system, but Rogers said that without a sprinkler system, the blaze could engulf the entire building before firefighters could arrive.

“If I have to send firefighters in there it could kill them,” he said.

The nearest fire station is across Interstate 20, at Halls Ferry Park.

Varner had ordered the security to be in place beginning Dec. 6, but nightly checks by the fire department have found no one at the building. Rogers said it will be up to the court now to impose the fine, which, by today, would be $2,000.

Vicksburg’s community court was established this year and began hearing misdemeanor violations of the city’s zoning ordinance in October.

The site had been looked at as the potential site for the Home Depot development, but national home improvement retailer selected a site across Interstate 20 near Halls Ferry Road.

Battlefield was among the first and one of the largest malls in Mississippi with major stores such as McRae’s, Sears, Kroger and Walgreen’s, joined by smaller specialty shops and a restaurant. It was the area’s main shopping center until 1985 when Pemberton Square opened.

The building was then converted into office space for federal employees moved from the condemned Walnut Towers building near City Hall. It has been mostly vacant since the Vicksburg District moved to new offices on East Clay Street.

Last month, a realty company’s sign went up outside the 41-year-old building advertising it for sale.