VICKSBURG — An offer to renovate the old plantation house at Ceres has been rejected as Warren County Port Commission members took two offers to demolish the structure under advisement.
By unanimous vote, the commission chose to consider a $23,500 offer from Vicksburg-based Buford Construction and one for $24,184 from Madison-based Bulldog Construction.
Under both, the house, parts of which date to 1830, and a smaller pool house would be razed. Two large barns would stay on the property. One offer specified an extra $1,500 to test for asbestos. If hazardous material is found, it would be removed at commission cost.
The Ceres Research and Industrial Interplex was created by the county with grant money starting in 1986. The house on the 1,290-acre tract north of the Flowers exit of Interstate 20 remained while roads, drainage and sewerage were installed to adapt the former farmland for industry.
The house has had several uses since, but has become dilapidated and the commission advertised to have it moved or torn down — only.
It was on that basis that commissioners ignored the offer from Deborah Reul, who pitched a plan to renovate the house where it sits and create a 19th-century village with a bed-and-breakfast.
“This proposal is quite extensive — it requires us to put in $10 million worth of improvements, to make this into a national tourist area, hiring 120 people and bringing in approximately $300,000 to $500,000 a year into the county of Warren,” Reul told the commission.
Reul, her husband, Douglas, and a daughter, Deana, are listed as general partners in Pahrump Properties Family Limited Partnership, a company registered in Missouri and Nevada. Reul described the partnership as a “management property business.”
Port Executive Director Wayne Mansfield described the offer of Reul’s holding company, Restored Properties, LLC, as “pretty comprehensive” but one that had to be tossed aside.
Mansfield said the commission’s request for proposals was narrow and Reul’s didn’t fit. Leaving the house there or renovating it were not options for the tract, although commissioners have not identified any plans for the site.
Earlier, Reul explored the cost of moving the house across the highway. The cost was pegged at $1.8 million, which Reul deemed too expensive. The construction phase alone of a full-scale bed and breakfast out of a renovated plantation house would cost more, at $1.9 million, according to the proposal, submitted without a purchase price.
After it opened, Ceres became home to McCarty Foods, now Tyson; Simpson-Duravent, which made chimneys; and Yorozu and CalsonicKansei, two tier-one suppliers to the Nissan plant near Jackson.
Simpson-DuraVent and the auto companies have since closed. Tyson cooks and packages chicken-based meals at its Ceres plant, and there is a Mississippi Department of Transportation maintenance center at Ceres. A National Guard Readiness Center is also nearby and there is an unfinished “spec” building built by Warren County, which has not been sold.