CottonMill Marketplace developer backs out of project

December 5, 2009 9:46:00 PM

Tim Pratt -


STARKVILLE -- Developers Mark Nicholas and Brooks Holstein have spent the past 24 months trying to turn the land across Highway 12 from Mississippi State University into CottonMill Marketplace -- an expansive development of retail space, restaurants, residences, a hotel and conference center.  


This week, however, CottonMill Marketplace''s two developers announced Holstein''s company, COMVEST Properties, has sold its interests in the project to Nicholas, and the makeup of the proposed development has changed. COMVEST will still assist in developing the retail portion of the project, but Nicholas Properties will have sole ownership, Nicholas said. 


Contacted Friday evening, COMVEST marketing and public policy director Wendy Peavy said Holstein sold his interests in CottonMill Marketplace to focus more on projects along the Gulf Coast. COMVEST is located in Biloxi and specializes in shopping centers and shopping center rehabilitation. The company is focusing in particular on developing Walgreens in Mississippi and Louisiana, and on other projects "already in the pipeline," Peavy said. 


"This is not bad for the (CottonMill Marketplace) project at all," Peavy said. "It''s just a change in ownership. It happens quite frequently in large developments." 


Nicholas also said the change in ownership isn''t necessarily a bad thing.  


"We still have our full team of professionals that are continuing to work on this project," Nicholas said. "We''ve made great progress in the past few months and are really close to bringing this project to reality." 


One of the hangups has been the purchase of the E.E. Cooley Building and surrounding land from Mississippi State University. The former cotton mill is used for storage and office space, but plans call for it to be transformed into a conference center with an adjoining hotel.  


Nicholas wouldn''t go into specifics when asked about the delays in purchasing the property from Mississippi State. 


"We are hopefully in the last stages of negotiations with the university," Nicholas said. "We''re hoping we should be able to have an announcement relatively soon on the timeline, but hopefully (construction) will start by the spring or middle of the year." 


The layout of the proposed development, although still conceptual, also has changed, Nicholas said. He said he would provide updated site plans to The Dispatch, but those had not been received as of Saturday. 


Still, Nicholas said the project is "very large." 


"It has not been scaled down," Nicholas said. "It''s still very large. Construction costs have come down, which has really helped us." 


Greater Starkville Development Partnership President Jon Maynard had heard about the change in ownership when contacted Friday night, but hadn''t heard all of the specifics. 


"Honestly, I don''t know how to see it," Maynard said. "I haven''t talked to them enough to find out more." 


Maynard said he has a meeting Monday with Nicholas to "talk about it more directly," but he doesn''t think the change in ownership will doom the project. 


"I know they still plan to move forward," Maynard said. "I don''t think this is a bad thing at all. (Nicholas) is the local connection and I think he can push this project forward a little more diligently." 


Nicholas attended Mississippi State University and two of his sons have graduated from MSU. A third son is enrolled there now.  


"I have a lot of maroon blood in me," Nicholas said. "That''s one of the reasons I pushed this project so hard, because I love Mississippi State and I love Starkville." 


Nicholas has not released the names of any potential tenants.  


For more information on the project, visit