Mill project gets OK from National Parks Service

November 8, 2013 9:56:47 AM

Carl Smith - [email protected]


Golden Triangle developer Mark Castleberry confirmed Thursday that The Mill project received a verbal, conditional approval from the National Parks Service for Cooley Building renovations, one of the final hurdles left to clear before construction begins. 


The development will transform Mississippi State University's Cooley Building into a conference center with office space; construct a 450-space parking facility and a Marriot Courtyard Hotel; and develop mixed-use parcels in the area near the Russell Street/Highway 12 corridor, a tract of land many officials consider a front door to the university. 


Parks approval was needed since the former cotton mill was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, 10 years after the university acquired the facility. The Cooley Building has served as home to MSU's facilities management department. 


Castleberry would not say when the construction phase of the project will begin. 


Last month, the state college board approved a series of agreements finalizing Mill plans, including the sale of a portion of the land for the hotel. Facilities management will move temporarily until a replacement facility is constructed on Buckner Lane. 


The recent federal government shutdown created delays with NPS requests, Castleberry said last month. 


"We have refused to settle for anything that did not meet our highest expectations -- logistically, aesthetically or financially," said MSU President Mark Keenum in a release last month. "The project as a whole will be a boon to our ability to attract important academic conferences and visitors, provide much-needed office space and make us more appealing to prospective students and faculty members. It will also create closer town-gown relations and give an economic boost to the area." 


Numerous Mill-related agreements were approved in 2013, including a land-use agreement between Starkville and the university for the parking structure. To fund the facility, the city is using an $8 million Community Development Block Grant from the Mississippi Development Authority. The prior Starkville Board of Aldermen previously approved a 15-year, $3.25 million-maximum tax increment financing agreement (TIF) for infrastructure needs that will utilize 75 percent of ad valorem and sales tax returns for debt payment. 


"Efforts to bring this development to fruition on this site have been underway for about 10 years," Keenum said in the same release. "It's been a long and rocky road, as you well know. But our staff, working with the city, state and federal offices, the current private partner and others, have been persistent."

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