October 20, 2011 1:18:00 PM
STARKVILLE -- The log cabin that used to house Burger King is crumbling to pieces and should be a vacant lot in the next few days. Speculation of what new business is going to be located at the corner of Highway 12 and Spring Street spread through social network Twitter over the last few days.
Is it a restaurant? Is it a clothing store?
Both are possibilities but the demolition is likely part of something greater: the CottonMill Marketplace.
CottonMill developer Mark Nicholas originally slated the demolition of the cabin in January to make way for the sprawling, $100 million development of retail space, restaurants, residences, a hotel and conference center.
David Shaw, Mississippi State University vice president of research and development, announced earlier this week that the project, which has stalled over the last four years as developers have struggled to secure financing, should break ground by the beginning of 2012.
Shaw said he's talked with the development team of Nicholas, Mark Boutwell and David Moore who say "things are moving forward" with the terms and conditions of the financial package.
"Optimistically, we think we can see closing on the financial package by the middle of November," Shaw said. "Though we're actually giving ourselves until the end of the year for that to take place. There should be a lot of changes that happen quickly after that."
"We're anticipating a two-year window for all of the renovation and construction to take place," he added. "So by the end of 2013, we should be in the facility."
Plans for CottonMill Marketplace include the transformation of the E.E. Cooley Building, located on Russell Street, from offices and storage space into a conference center. When renovations are complete, the conference center portion of the Cooley Building will be about 80,000-square-feet and renovated office space that will take up about 30,000-square-feet, according to plans.
Shaw said he anticipates a two-year window for construction and renovation to be complete. MSU has committed to leasing office space.
Messages left for Boutwell and Nicholas weren't returned Wednesday.
Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman and the board of aldermen secured more than $11 million for financing for roadways, land acquisition and a parking deck in December 2010. The parking deck will be funded by $8 million in Community Development Block Grant funds, while $3.8 million from the Mississippi Development Authority will go toward road improvements.
"The economic impact would be huge because the driver of this project is a conference center, and there is a very big market for conferencing in Starkville that is not being served right now," Wiseman said. "Having the capacity to bring conferences into a facility that would be a one-of-a-kind in the state has the tremendous potential to bring people and events into our market that right now can't come."
Despite changes in ownership and financing woes on the developers' end, both Shaw and Wiseman expressed confidence the project wouldn't hit another snag.
"I think the commitment of this community, as well as the commitment of the development group is what has allowed this project to survive," Wiseman said. "In this economy, it's hard to make a project of this size work."
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