Cato: Ready to begin

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 23, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Developer Charles Cato said Monday his company has bought the Ramada Inn Hilltop and plans to start renovation in January.

Cato said his company bought the hotel two or three weeks ago.

The Ramada, formerly owned by a mortgage holding company, closed Nov. 28 in anticipation of a sale, the hotel&8217;s previous manager said at the time.

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&8220;We&8217;re going to renovate it and reopen it,&8221; Cato said Monday. &8220;The plan is to tear down the 100-unit main building. We&8217;ll keep the restaurant and offices and build 70 rooms and rehab the other buildings.&8221;

The new rooms will all have interior rather than outside entrances, Cato said.

&8220;It will look very pretty when we&8217;re finished,&8221; he said. &8220;The architects are drawing up plans now.&8221;

Cato said he hoped to open the hotel sometime next year.

The hotel purchase goes hand-in-hand with a planned casino development, Cato said.

Cato&8217;s company, Emerald Star Casino, is on this week&8217;s Mississippi Gaming Commission&8217;s agenda, requesting an extension of time in order to get their finances in order, Gaming Commission Executive Director Larry Gregory said Monday.

&8220;In December 2005, Emerald Star came before us with a financing package with the anticipation that their project would be financed within a year,&8221; Godfrey said. &8220;The financing has not been completed, so they are coming to the commission this month asking for an extension.&8221;

Because of the financial arrangement with the commission, Gregory said, Emerald Star must have all its financial backing before they start work on the planned casino.

The commission granted the company site approval, site development plan approval and approval to proceed with its Natchez development Nov. 17, 2005, Gregory said.