Developer buys 7th downtown spot, clears utility pole hurdle|[10/06/07]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 6, 2007

Developer Robert Ware announced Friday at a ribbon-cutting for his downtown development, The Ware House, that he had purchased a neighboring building, ending a dispute over access to electricity and clearing the way for an expansion that will include a sports bar on Washington Street.

“My goal with the purchase,” Ware said, “was not only to find an answer to the electricity problem, but also to add stability to the tenancy on that end of the street.”

His newest purchase, 1416 Washington St., formerly was Pig Willy’s and Country Junction. It closed its doors Tuesday.

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That building is next door to two buildings he bought in 2005 and has transformed into a lounge and luxury hotel rooms and suites. A restaurant and additional units are planned.

The purchase will also remedy Ware’s problem of running electricity to 1414 Washington, where construction work is continuing with limited electrical capacity.

City of Vicksburg officials in September denied Ware’s request for an easement behind his property at 1414, which he requested to allow Entergy to place a utility pole that would require power lines to cross the neighboring property at 1416 Washington St.

Ware purchased 1416 from Jay Jabour Friday, clearing the way for the pole. The former owner of the building, home to watering holes Manda’s and Niknar’s in its recent history, had declined to release the easement to Ware because, he said, it would limit access to a waste receptacle behind his property. Jabour also had said the lines over his property would prohibit him from developing the area behind his building, which had been in his family for generations.

He was not available for comment Friday.

After the purchase, Ware said, electricians were on site at the new building to provide electrical service.

“Immediately with the signing we solved the problem,” he said.

Ware’s newest purchase means he owns seven properties in one block — 1408, 1410, 1412, 1414 and 1416 Washington and two lots fronting Crawford Street that housed Rusty’s Riverfront Grill before a fire forced it to move north on Washington to its current site.

The purchase also means Ware owns all but two of the buildings on the west side of Washington in the 1400 block.

Ware’s first downtown purchases came in 2005 after a cross-country RV tour landed him in Vicksburg. By August of that year, he had begun amassing and converting the 1800s-era properties that would together be known as The Ware House. Hotel units became available by reservation this week.

Ware said Friday 11 of the 19 units will be housed in the two main properties by Nov. 1. They will be in addition to the lounge, which opened early summer as The Lobby; and a restaurant at the 1414 address.

In the newest building, the sports bar will be upstairs and a lobby for the complex will be at street level.

Ware hopes the sports bar will be a place for locals to go, eat meals, day and night, and watch sports.

“This one is specifically for the locals,” he said. “We were very disappointed when Country Junction closed. We noticed people really loved the space and wanted it operating again.”

Ware’s decision to provide another downtown night-life option came about two months after local officials passed an amendment to Vicksburg’s zoning ordinance, defining businesses that derive more than 40 percent of revenue from alcohol sales as a nightclub. The ordinance, which followed complaints from downtown residents and business owners, including Ware, about noisy and unruly behavior at The New New Orleans Cafe on Grove Street, just west of Washington, prohibits nightclubs from operating downtown. Ware said his business will be run as a “first-class sports bar.”

“We’ve noted and the city has noted — if you’re going to have a bar, you have to work in conjunction with the residents. You have to have landlords that are responsible,” he said. “I want it to be fun and exciting and enjoyable — and keep the area clean. Vicksburg deserves really nice places.”

Tours of The Ware House will be available today during the 13th Annual Downtown Vicksburg Fall Festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The tours will cost $5, which will be donated to the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation.