October 18, 2013 9:49:10 AM
The Mill development moved another step toward becoming reality Thursday when the state college board approved a series of agreements finalizing the project's plans.
The long-awaited development will transform Mississippi State University's Cooley Building into a conference building with office space, a 450-space parking facility, a Marriot Courtyard Hotel and mixed-use business parcels in the area near the Russell Street-Highway 12 intersection.
MSU will sell a portion of its property for the hotel, lease the Cooley Building and utilize some of its office space. The university's facilities management department, which is based out of the Cooley Building, will move temporarily until a replacement facility is constructed on Buckner Lane.
Developer Mark Castleberry said Thursday he is awaiting approval from the National Parks Service for Cooley Building renovations -- the facility was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, 10 years after MSU acquired the former cotton mill -- before workers can turn dirt on the project.
"This is the culmination of months and months of work with MSU, but we do need NPS to drop the hammer," he said. "We've been working closely with them for about nine months. This is the last bit of information they should need."
Although the federal government's shutdown delayed the last approval, and a bottlenecking of requests could further exacerbate the problem, Castleberry said he is hopeful NPS will soon green-light the development.
"We're committed to this project," he said. "It's going to happen."
"We have refused to settle for anything that did not meet our highest expectations - logistically, aesthetically or financially," said MSU President Mark Keenum in a release. "We are confident that we have it right and we're grateful that the state college board shares our vision. The project as a whole will be a boon to our ability to attract important academic conferences and visitors, provide much needed office space and make us more appealing to prospective students and faculty members. It will also create closer town-gown relations and give an economic boost to the area."
Numerous Mill-related agreements were approved in 2013, including a land-use agreement between Starkville and the university for the parking structure. To fund the facility, the city is utilizing an $8 million Community Development Block Grant from the Mississippi Development Authority. The prior Starkville Board of Aldermen previously approved a 15-year, $3.25 million-maximum tax increment financing agreement for infrastructure needs that will utilize 75 percent of ad valorem and sales tax returns for debt payment.
"Efforts to bring this development to fruition on this site have been underway for about 10 years," Keenum said. "It has been a long and rocky road, as you well know. But our staff, working with the city, state and federal offices, the current private partner and others, have been persistent."
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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