Portofino permits on file, work begins

Published 9:55 am Thursday, March 30, 2017

An official with Vicksburg Hotel LLC, owner of the Portofino Hotel, said the company expects to announce its plans for the property next week.

City community development director Victor Grey-Lewis said a building permit has been issued to the company to begin work rehabilitating the building western section of the property that once served as the access to the former Grand Station Casino barge that sat in a cofferdam at City Front.

The building’s exterior had been damaged by vandals, who removed the exterior walls to take the structure’s copper water lines, he said.

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“You’ll see a flurry of activity now,” said Vicksburg Hotel official Greg Stewart. He declined to comment further on the company’s plans.

“They are in there working,” Grey-Lewis said. “The permits for the subcontractors have been issued and the inspections are starting. Everything is moving forward.”

He said the company will be applying for other building permits, and will soon present plans for another part of the project.

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

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.

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, and 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.

It 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,

In January, Stewart said Vicksburg Hotel would announce plans for reopening the hotel.

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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