Locked down: Construction activity missing at Portofino

Published 9:34 am Thursday, September 17, 2015

Almost two months after it was closed for renovations, the Portofino Hotel on Mulberry Street remains locked down with no signs of construction activity around the building or the nearby area that once led to the former Grand Station Casino barge.

The hotel was closed July 20 for seven months for improvements to the building as part of the renovations in anticipation of a proposed 30,000-square-foot land-based casino on property south of hotel at 1310 Mulberry St. If built, it would become the city’s fifth casino.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved a permit for the city that will allow the owners of Portofino Resort LLC to make changes along the city’s floodwall as part of the casino’s construction.

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The hotel closing affected 33 events planned for Vicksburg, forcing officials with the Vicksburg Convention Center to help meeting and convention planners find new hotel rooms for participants.

Community Development Director Victor Grey-Lewis said hotel officials have sent plans to demolish the metal walkway and other structures on Levee Street behind the hotel, which were associated with the old casino barge located in the Mississippi River, but there has been no application for a demolition permit.

Grey-Lewis said Wednesday he has talked with Portofino owner Greg Stewart about the plans and the hotel, adding Stewart told him, “We’re moving forward.” Repeated attempts to contact Stewart for comment were unsuccessful.

Portofino is the latest occupant of the hotel building and the fifth company to try and operate a casino at the site.

Harrah’s Casino operated at the site from 1993 until 2003, when it sold its Vicksburg property to Columbia Sussex. The names on the casino and hotel changed to Horizon until the fall 2010, when Tropicana Entertainment, which was part of Columbia Sussex and operated Horizon, went bankrupt and closed the casino.

In 2011, the venue reopened as Grand Station, but closed in March 2012 amid bankruptcy. From 1993 until the Grand Station bankruptcy, the casino was located in a cofferdam on a barge built to look like a riverboat that was moored in the Yazoo Diversion Canal next to the hotel and surrounded by a cofferdam.

The former casino vessel was auctioned for scrap metal in April 2013 and hauled away. Portofino Hotel operates in the same structure as the previous casino hotels, an edifice owned by Vicksburg Hotel LLC, based in Biloxi.

Vicksburg’s four casinos are Ameristar, Lady Luck, DiamondJacks and Riverwalk, the last of which opened in 2008.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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