IHL approves MSU, city lease for Cotton Mill project parking garage

August 17, 2013 9:16:19 PM

Carl Smith - [email protected]


The State College Board approved a land-use agreement between Mississippi State University and the city of Starkville Thursday for the Mill at MSU's parking garage, a step which brings developers closer to turning dirt on the entire project. 


The agreement leases the 1.67-acre parcel on which a 450-space parking garage will sit to the city for 10 years. Starkville is utilizing an $8 million Community Development Block Grant from the Mississippi Development authority to construct the facility, and the garage will become MSU's property at the end of the lease.  


Starkville and MSU will equally split any profits generated from the facility, Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning documents state, and the university will provide public parking space, including slots for the planned Cooley Center's conference and office space and the incoming Marriot Courtyard Hotel.  


The city will allow MSU unrestricted access to the facility so the university can maintain it at its own expense. 


"MSU and the City of Starkville will work together to use any such profits on projects that benefit both the city and the university," the agreement states. 


"This effectively completes all transactions form a city standpoint," Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman said Saturday. "Everything remaining from a transaction standpoint is now between the developer and the university, and the various things related to the developer on closing the project. The city is now sitting on 'go' and we expect to be starting our part of the construction project this fall." 


Mill Developer Mark Castleberry said Thursday's agreement marks a major step forward for the project.  


Castleberry declined to say when the Mill's various projects will break ground, but officials are aiming to turn dirt this year. He did say October's State College Board meeting could yield further agreements, thereby allowing him to set a ground-breaking timetable. 


"The Oct. 15 IHL meeting is a big meeting for us, but so was Thursday's. That was a key element which had to be established. If we can't park cars, we can't have a hotel," he said.  


"Success begets success," Castleberry added. "Our team, the city and the university did a great job putting the groundwork together for this project. There were so many complexities with the parking garage, and it's a real comfort to have put it to bed. We know we, the city and the university can work together successfully for this project." 


The Mill development includes three main projects: transforming the historic former cotton mill -- MSU's Cooley Building -- into a conference center with available office space, constructing a nearby hotel and developing mixed-use business parcels in the land adjacent to the university's old physical plant. 


MSU purchased the John M. Stone Cotton Mill in 1965 and renamed it after the school's former superintendent of utilities, E.E. Cooley. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. 


In April, the prior Starkville Board of Aldermen approved a 15-year, $3.25 million-maximum tax increment financing agreement associated with the project. The TIF will utilize 75 percent of ad valorem and sales tax returns for debt payments. Monies from the agreement will help pay for various infrastructure projects associated with the Mill, including public parking spaces, roadways, sidewalks and utilities. 


Two firms emerged in March as the front-runners to handle architectural and construction plans for the parking garage. Previous aldermen picked Copeland and Johns Inc. for construction manager-advisor work and Dale Partners Architects P.A. for architectural services for the project.

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