City seeks to let contract on depot in weeks

Published 12:02 pm Tuesday, June 22, 2010

With expectations of awarding a bid in early July, the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen opened six sealed bids Monday to renovate the Levee Street Depot into a transportation museum and office spaces.

Five of the six bids came in under Natchez architect Waycaster & Associates Architects’ $1.68 million estimate on the project, which is being paid for through $1.9 million in federal stimulus funds requiring no local match. From lowest to highest, the bids are:

• $1,533,000 — McMillan-Pitts Construction Company of Pearl

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• $1,535,000 — Kenneth R. Thompson Jr. Builder Inc. of Greenwood

• $1,540,000 — Flagstar Construction Company of Brandon

• $1,589,000 — Coleman Hammons Construction Company of Pearl

• $1,634,000 — Mayrant & Associates of Jackson

• $1,800,000 — Paul Jackson & Son Inc. of Brookhaven

It was the second round of bid openings on the redevelopment of the 103-year-old, city-owned depot, which has been vacant for years. Three bids opened on April 19 were rejected because two of the bidders — Kenneth R. Thompson Jr. Builder Inc. and Flagstar Construction Company — did not follow bid guidelines. Vicksburg’s Fordice Construction Company’s $1.84 million bid was rejected for coming in above the architect’s estimate.

Buildings and Inspections Director Victor Gray-Lewis said Waycaster and Associates representatives are expected to give the mayor and aldermen their bid award recommendation at the board’s July 6 meeting. Under Mississippi Department of Transportation guidelines, the winning bidder will have until Sept. 1 to begin the project. MDOT is the administering agency by which the stimulus funds are flowing to the depot project.

Redevelopment of the 14,000-square-foot, three-story depot — which the city purchased in 2002 for about $295,000 — is expected to take about 12 months, though the office spaces might be completed a few months before the museum.

“We’d like to be in there in time for the spring and summer season next year,” said Vicksbrug Transportation Museum Executive Director Lamar Roberts, who also owns and operates the Battlefield Museum on North Frontage Road. “I’d like to be in there and ready to run by April, but that’s sort of going to be a pipe-dream, I guess.”

The Vicksburg Main Street Program and Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau will both have office spaces on the second floor of the depot once renovations are complete. A museum library will also be located on the second floor, while the ground floor will be dedicated solely to the transportation museum, which will feature models and displays of railway, river and air transportation history.

Main Street and the VCVB are to enter into a 20-year lease with the city, and pay about $500 a month for rent and utilities. The VCVB is also to give the city $150,000 as part of the deal.

“I’m just glad that they came in below the estimate, and everybody seems to be happy and on the same page,” Roberts said. “We’re ready to get something started.”

Roberts has estimated the transportation museum will draw an average of 50,000 visitors annually. The project has been in the developing stages for years, part of the City Front revitalization that has already seen the completion of the Riverfront Murals, Art Park and Splash Fountain at Catfish Row and Junior Auxiliary river-themed playground.

Less than a block away from the depot, the dry-docked MV Mississippi IV is to be transformed into a $16 million interpretive center and museum by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A spring 2011 completion date had been expected, but the project has been put on hold since a nearby March 26 land shift. Work is expected to resume on the project later this month.