Portofino Hotel work is underway

Published 6:21 pm Thursday, August 3, 2017

Work to transform the Portofino Hotel into a Margaritaville resort is continuing, a spokesman for the project’s investors said.

The resort is expected to open in April 2018, but an apparent lack of visible activity at the site has raised concerns about the project’s progress.

“It’s all interior,” said spokesman Greg Stewart, adding the plans and permits for the work going on in the lower end of the hotel area have been submitted to Vicksburg’s community development department. He said plans for the resort’s proposed water playground will be submitted at a later date, but gave no time when they might be delivered to the city.

“We’re in no hurry,” he said of water attraction’s plans. “We’re not looking to open until next spring. We have the plans, it’s just no hurry. We’re working on the lower building first; it’s being renovated. It’s (the site for) the family entertainment section and the restaurant.”

Plans to put the resort at the site of the Grand Station Hotel and Casino were announced in May through a press release from Margaritaville offices in Biloxi.

Cono Caranna, a developer who is affiliated with Margaritaville Biloxi and a partner with Vicksburg Hotel LLC, declined to give the exact cost of the project, except to say it is a “multimillion dollar” investment.

The resort is expected to hire about 250 people and will hold a job fair in early 2018, he said.

Once completed, it will include the nine-story, 117-room hotel with suites and rooms, an indoor arcade, a restaurant and a coffee shop, fitness center and a recreation area called the “Coral Reef Water Playground.”

Caranna said the arcade will offer the latest in video and electronic games and other activities. He said an opening ceremony is planned, but was unable to give a date when that will happen.

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 casino vessel was auctioned for scrap metal in April 2013.

Vicksburg Hotel acquired the former Grand Station Hotel and Casino property in 2014, and renamed it Portofino. The hotel closed its doors July 21, 2015, and has not reopened.

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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