Spokesman: Plans for hotel’s renovation coming to city officials next week

Published 9:55 pm Friday, February 17, 2017

Plans for Portofino Hotel’s renovation and remodeling should be in the hands of Vicksburg’s community development officials soon.

“We’ve got the plans completed this week. We’re going to drive up and turn them in next week,” Vicksburg Hotels LLC representative Greg Stewart said Friday.

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Stewart said in January company officials anticipated announcing their plans for the vacant hotel earlier in February, but those plans were delayed. Stewart declined to discuss the reason for the delay.

When he was interviewed in January, Stewart said work had been going on inside the hotel, but would not discuss the company’s plans, adding, “It’s not going to be a casino, I’ll tell you that.”

Portofino closed its doors July 21, 2015, and has not reopened since.

At the time, the closing affected 33 events planned for the Vicksburg Convention Center, forcing convention center officials to work with event planners to book new hotels for the participants.

Vicksburg Convention Center director Annette Kirklin said in early February that news that Portofino was planning to reopening was creating a buzz among meeting planners that could prove to be a boon for the convention center in the future.

“The word on the street (about the hotel’s plans) is getting out to the meeting planners,” she said.

“They’re getting excited, and perspective media planners are hearing about it, too, so it’s put another vibe in the air, because there was a bad vibe before, because it closed down. I’m very elated.”

Kirklin said she has talked with Stewart about the hotel, “and the only thing I can officially tell anyone is late spring, early summer,” as far as the projected opening.

She said having a hotel close to the convention center would be a big advantage in booking conventions and meetings.

When he announced the hotel’s closure, Stewart said he expected it to be closed for about seven months while renovations and repairs were performed on the building.

About a year later, no visible work had been done on the property and the hotel remained locked, causing some speculation it was up for sale.

In July 2016, William Little, a Gulfport attorney who represents Stewart and Vicksburg Hotel LLC, said the property was not for sale. He said, however, a lawsuit concerning Vicksburg Hotel LLC’s title to the property had stalled development of the property.

The suit challenging Vicksburg Hotel’s title on the property was filed August 2014 in Dallas County Circuit Court by a company called B.O.S. Consulting LLC.

The suit was dismissed in July 2016 with prejudice, according to court records, meaning BOSC could not re-file the suit. The reason for the dismissal was not given in the records.

Vicksburg Hotel in September 2015 filed suit in Warren County Chancery Court against BOSC, M Street and Great Southern, the former hotel owner, in connection with the Dallas suit. That suit remains active.

On May 6, 2016, Portofino LLC, a company interested in buying the hotel that bears its name, sued Vicksburg Hotel in Warren County Circuit Court for $500,000 it claimed it was due because the company decided not to buy the building. The suit was transferred in June 2016 to Harrison County Circuit Court. Stewart said that suit has been settled.

“It took a long time and a lot of money to clear all that up,” he said,

Harrah’s Casino operated at the site of the Portofino 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 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.

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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