Construction continues on The Mill in Starkville, which resides on Russell Street around the corner from Mississippi State University. Photo by: Zach Odom/Dispatch Staff
August 9, 2014 11:22:49 PM
Slight changes to the combined Mill project's parking garage are expected after workers found a debris pile at the construction site, but developers say their portions of the significant retail development are moving forward with few issues.
Starkville aldermen held a special-call meeting last month to adjust the project's scope since the debris' removal was an unexpected expense. To compensate the cost of removal and dirt, three screen meshes that would shield the parking decks from sunlight and provide some privacy could come off the drawing board.
Mill at MSU developer Mark Castleberry described the debris as a brick cistern that appeared to provide fire protection for the old cotton mill located on Russell Street, but its specific usage is still up for speculation.
"It appeared to be a big tank. When they demolished its walls, it appears they didn't demolish the base, so that had to be removed," he said. "There's still conjecture about what it originated from, but there was a lot of ground water there, too."
Officials from Oktibbeha County's historical society brought old pictures to the developers, Castleberry said, that showed the round structure in use and its demolition.
"It's coincidental that they brought them in right after we found it," he said. "(Mississippi Department of Archives and History) had to bless the removal, but the bottom line is we're past it all."
Combined, Castleberry's Mill at MSU project and Cotton Mill Marketplace, a development led by Mark Nicholas, will transform the Russell Street-Miss. Highway 12 corridor into a new economic powerhouse filled with retail shops, restaurants and hotels.
Castleberry's project aims to renovate Mississippi State University's E.E. Cooley Building into a major conference center, a need economic developers and tourism officials say has remained a significant missing part to the area's economy. Both Castleberry and Nicholas' developments will construct individual hotels - a Courtyard by Marriott and Holiday Inn, respectively - on parcels of land spanning from Chick-fil-A to the historic cotton mill, while the Cotton Mill Marketplace also will produce retail space for at least five businesses.
Three chain restaurants - Jimmy Johns, Hungry Howie's Pizza and Salsarita's Fresh Cantina - have committed as tenants, Nicholas confirmed, and the developer previously told aldermen the project should also attract a fine clothing boutique.
Nicholas is still marketing the remaining retail space and hopes to have additional commitments soon, he said.
The parking structure will provide more than 400 spaces for visitors to the development, university and city as a whole and is funded through a Community Development Block Grant.
The combined developments will transform the area city leaders have called the front door to MSU's campus, due to its proximity to the university's highway entrance.
Despite the minor setback, the Mill at MSU project's main elements are moving forward with few delays, Castleberry said.
Workers have poured many of the parking structure's 200 concrete support piers in place, he said, and foundation work on the Marriott is progressing.
Castleberry estimated the parking garage may be a couple of weeks behind schedule, but workers are expected to finish the structure before the project's other main developments. The hotel project is similarly behind schedule by a week or so because of deep foundation work, he said.
Cooley Building renovations should conclude June 1, 2015, he said, while the hotel should open three months later.
"I'm very pleased with our contractor and architect," Castleberry said. "We're making good progress."
Over at the Cotton Mill Marketplace construction site, Nicholas said workers should begin erecting the retail space in a matter of days.
"We plan to have that portion of the project turned over to individual tenants in September," he said. "I am absolutely excited about what the completion of this project could mean to Starkville."
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch