VCVB gets offer to sell downtown building|[06/14/07]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau has received a surprise offer from a buyer to purchase its downtown building.

&#8220We received the offer Monday,” said executive director Bill Seratt, following a closed-door meeting Wednesday night. &#8220We were not expecting it at all.”

But, &#8220we’re moving forward with a counter-offer,” he said.

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Seratt would not say who the offer came from or how much was offered. Details will be disclosed if the deal goes through, he said.

The VCVB was forced to vacate its headquarters at 1221 Washington St. in January 2006, after the old Thomas Furniture building collapsed. Since, staff members have moved twice.

First, they moved across the street to 1300 Washington St., a building they rented from Duff Green Mansion owner Harry Sharp. In April, the agency moved again, to a modular home donated free for two years by Cappaert Manufactured Housing. Patty Cappaert, wife of Cappaert president Mike Cappaert, is a member of the VCVB board.

Some travel counselors have been placed at the military park, downtown at Lorelei Books and at the Mississippi Welcome Center.

The modular structure sits behind the agency’s Welcome Center on Clay Street, across from the Vicksburg National Military Park.

Modular buildings are typically not allowed under most city zoning codes. But the city granted the VCVB a one-year exception, renewable for one year, allowing the building to remain at the Welcome Center. The modular structure was dedicated last week with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Seratt said the VCVB would eventually like to return downtown, but couldn’t say when that might happen.

&#8220Right now, we really don’t know,” he said, adding that the outcome of Monday’s offer will likely influence plans.

The VCVB was created by the Legislature in 1972 as Vicksburg’s and Warren County’s main funding arm for tourism. Its 11-member city- and county-appointed board oversees its funding and staff, which includes full-time and part-time staff.

The bureau’s downtown building was constructed in the early 1970s and used as a savings and loan operation for many years.