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Mill project ground-breaking set for Thursday

 

Carl Smith

 

Local, state and university representatives will break ground for the Mill at MSU development project 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the Cooley Building, officials have confirmed. 

 

Officials who confirmed the event, including Mississippi State University Vice President for Research and Economic Development David Shaw, Oktibbeha County's chief Golden Triangle Development LINK representative Joey Deason and Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman, heralded the event as the most important step for the long-awaited development. 

 

The $40 million development will transform the historic Cooley Building, which previously housed MSU's facilities management division, into a major conference center with office space; construct a large parking facility and a Marriot Courtyard Hotel; and develop at retail parcels in the area near the Russell Street-Miss. Highway 12 corridor, a tract of land officials have previously called the front door to the university. 

 

Deason predicted the project, led by Columbus-based developer Mark Castleberry, will create about 150 jobs, while Wiseman said a much-needed conference center will serve as an economic driver that was sorely overdue in the community. 

 

Scheduled to appear at the event are MSU President Mark Keenum, U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, Mississippi Development Authority CFO Kathy Gelston and Castleberry, Shaw said. 

 

Actual work is expected to begin shortly after the ceremony. Sources close to the project said Castleberry is in the process of closing financial deals needed to finance the development.  

 

A call to Castleberry went unreturned Friday. 

 

In previous board sessions, Starkville aldermen approved small-ticket, housekeeping agreements needed to push the project forward. Additionally, Gov. Phil Bryant approved SB 2286 on March 6, which authorized a long-term ground lease for the project. 

 

Numerous Mill-related agreements were also approved in 2013, including a land-use agreement between Starkville and the university for the parking structure. To fund the facility, the city will utilize an $8 million Community Development Block Grant from MDA. 

 

Starkville aldermen will hold a public hearing Tuesday on a revised tax increment financing (TIF) package for the development's two parts and a future development partition.  

 

"This is absolutely a monumental step for the project. It's been a long time coming," Shaw said. "There is still a lot of paperwork going back and forth, but I believe there isn't a reason in the world that this project will not come to fruition." 

 

"It's hard to predict exactly when (construction will begin in earnest) because there's always a mobilization process (that begins when a project's financing and other agreements are finalized)," Wiseman added. "This is a huge win for the community, and it is expected to bring new economic opportunities to the city of Starkville."

 

Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch

 

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