October 2, 2012 10:51:26 AM
It is hard to imagine a better fit for Starkville's CottonMill project than Columbus developer Mark Castleberry.
Last week, the Dispatch learned that Castleberry will replace Mark Nicholas as the developer of the $40-million collaboration between the city of Starkville and Mississippi State University. The complex will feature a conference center, hotel and shopping and is considered an enormous economic engine for both the city and the university.
While that arrangement is not yet official -- the state's Institutions of Higher Learning board of trustees will have to sign off on the agreement during its regular November meeting -- it seems obvious that the project has received a much-needed shot of momentum with the selection of Castleberry.
To understand why Castleberry is a particularly good fit, one need only consider the history of the CottonMill project itself. The project will have its third developer in its four-year history and the project has never moved much beyond the planning stages.
In Castleberry, the project is getting a developer with a history of seeing projects through to their completion. In Columbus, those include the conversion of a former Walmart into Windchase Shopping Center; a Fairfield Inn and Suites and the office building/condominium building housing the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau.
And with the project's focal point being an incorporation of the historic Cooley Building, the project also benefits from Castleberry's experience in renovating downtown buildings in Columbus that are well over 100 years old.
For the quietly competent Castleberry, CottonMill will be the biggest project he's developed, although the hotel complex in Columbus he is working is pretty close at $35 million.
Considering Castleberry's record, we're optimistic he will succeed where others have not: Getting the job done in a timely fashion.