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Partnership moves offices to historic downtown building

Starkville — In a somewhat unusual move for economic developers, the Greater Starkville Development Partnership has acquired and is renovating an historic building at 200 East Main Street in the heart of downtown Starkville to be used for office space for its member organizations, a visitor’s center and art gallery, 15 business incubator-type offices and meeting rooms.

In late February, the Partnership acquired the former People’s Savings Bank building, built in 1900 and located at the southeast corner of Main and Lafayette streets.

Renovations on the three-story facility are slated to begin August 1 and should be completed by year-end. The price tag: $1 million. Partnership board chairman Terry Kemp called the acquisition “a one-time opportunity that we believe our members and friends want to support.”

“The downtown area remains a focal point for growth in this community and is a reflection of the entire area,” said Kemp.

To defray the cost of remodeling expenses, fixtures and furnishings, the Partnership recently launched a $400,000 capital renovations campaign, “Partnership on Main,” asking for three-year contributions from up to 55 contributors and providing an opportunity for naming rights on six areas or rooms. Levels of contribution range from $1,000 to $7,500; naming rights range from $10,000 to $75,000.

The Partnership is also pursuing grants through the Appalachian Regional Commission, Mississippi Development Authority, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

“We’ve just gotten on the train that had already gained momentum in this community,” said David Thornell, president and CEO of the Partnership. “Our downtown progress is well underway.”

When the Partnership, which was organized April 2001, moved into the building in early June, it marked the first permanent office for its combined member agencies: Chamber of Commerce, Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority (OCEDA) and Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). In late 2002, The Partnership moved into OCEDA’s offices at the Technology Center building in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park and remained there until June 1, when a new tenant took over the space. The chamber and the CVB provided the down payment for the historic building with funds set aside from the sale of the former chamber building and from a portion of CVB funds.

“When we moved the chamber from downtown several years back, it was because our building was inadequate and incapable of being expanded,” explained Steve Langston, co-owner and general manager of Sullivan’s Office Supply, who also chairs the chamber’s advisory board and the downtown business association. “We knew the space at Research Park was a temporary location. It was a beautiful building and a great place to work, but it wasn’t centrally located and it was difficult to find if you were new to the area. It wasn’t a place to try to explain directions to visitors. It has taken a while, but we couldn’t ask for a better building. The outside is going to take little or no work. It looks like you want a chamber to look, it’s centrally located, and we’re going to have so much more visibility for all the partners in the Greater Starkville Development Partnership.”

After mulling its options for a temporary location until the building is completely restored, the Partnership board decided to move the staff into the building’s third floor.

“We’ll only need this temporary location for a few months until we move into our permanent offices on the first floor,” explained Thornell. “In the meantime, various Partnership members have offered us the use of their corporate meeting rooms, and we can use a variety of downtown restaurants for more informal meetings.”

The Starkville Area Arts Council, which plans to jointly furnish and maintain the first floor art gallery and welcome center, will relocate its offices to the building when their first executive director is hired later this year. The facility will also remain a multi-tenant office building comprised of three adjoining buildings, now known as Technology Square. Tenants will be relocated to the second floor space.

Mike Richey, assistant athletic director for sports marketing for Mississippi State University and chairman of the convention and visitors bureau, said acquiring the building and moving the Partnership’s offices there “is a great move for the CVB.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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