That Starkville might be a good place to expand their business occurred to Daniel Lewis and his father Van Lewis after the elder Lewis’ company began receiving listings for property in the city.
The odd thing is that Van Lewis’ real estate agency is in Meridian. So he partnered with his son and Jason Ingram to open United Country Bulldog Realty nearly 100 miles to the north.
“It’s a growing market,” Daniel Lewis said of his new hometown. The broker is positive and sold on his new marketplace.
“Prices are going up and people are coming here. I’m very pleased with it.”
In just the month it has been open, Bulldog Realty has employed two agents and listed 16 properties. They run the gamut, according to Lewis, from residential offerings to commercial to acreage, one of the firm’s specialties.
But Lewis points out the agency also boasts “a lot of unique properties.” One of the recently acquired Starkville listings fits that description.
It’s an eight-acre parcel adjacent to the Starkville Airport; the 22,000-square-foot main building includes a 10,000-square-foot enclosed hangar. That package screams for an aviation-oriented enterprise, but Lewis isn’t limiting to his sales efforts to that commercial sector.
The commercial sector in Starkville has kept the city’s real estate agencies occupied. Anyone familiar with the city of a decade ago — or even more recently — would likely be surprised at the level of commercial development in Starkville.
New restaurants — including but not limited to Chili’s, Sweet Peppers Deli, McAlister’s and Ruby Tuesday — abound. In some cases, explained Doug Goodwin, the situation can be misleading.
“The majority of the commercial has been in the food industry, but a lot of that has been relocation,” said Goodwin, managing broker and co-owner with Rick McGill and Hilbert Williams of Crye Leike Properties Unlimited in Starkville. “The food side is about tapped out but I foresee growth in commercial retail.”
But that’s not the end of the story, by any means: “The retail center is not dead,” promised Goodwin. He referred to a proposed strip shopping center on the west side of town, alongside the new four-laned Mississippi 25.
Thousands of Mississippi State University students tend to drive the commercial growth in Starkville, whether in food or retail. Goodwin explained that the Mississippi 25 retail center developers, according to information he’s received, are seeking to secure strong anchor stores that would appeal to the college buyers. Those might include stores like Old Navy, American Eagle, Abercrombie & Fitch or others.
According to Shelly Withers, Realtor with Coldwell Banker SRE, there are numerous commercial developments about to break loose in Starkville. A center of that activity is in the eastern part of town, on the western edge of the Mississippi State University (MSU) campus.
“It’s all going on within a mile of the campus and it’s going to bring us to a new level,” said Withers. Among the projects about to bust loose are a condominium project and a townhouse development practically across Russell Street from each other; they are both within sight of the campus.
Withers said that two old mainstays of Starkville’s commercial landscape near the MSU campus are coming down: the movie theater and the rustic wooden Burger King. Those will be razed to make way for a retail center. The old Borden dairy plant nearby is also being demolished for a new commercial development.
Existing subdivisions as well as newones — among them Greenbriar, Belmont Estates, Country Club Estates and Huntington Park — are doing well, Withers said. “These subdivisions are popular because of property values.”
Downtown success stories
And, Withers is glad to report, “Starkville’s downtown is thriving.” Like many American towns, Main Street in Starkville was once the commercial hub; folks made most of their purchases from stores along the street. With its recent facelift, downtown Starkville is as desirable a place to operate a business as ever.
However, like its neighbor, Columbus, to the east, Starkville is short on affordable housing choices, homes selling for $70,000-$120,000: “We have a void in the marketplace in the lower and mid-priced range,” said Goodwin. “We’ve got the lowest inventory we’ve ever had in low- and medium-price houses. We have an adequate number of upper-end houses.
“We get a lot of inquiries from people seeking low-income housing. I think that needs to be addressed.”
Doris Hardy, broker-owner of Century 21 Doris Hardy & Associates, explained that there is actually little differentiation between the Columbus, Starkville and other Golden Triangle real estate markets today. Employees of new plants, universities and other entities in the area are looking to find the best value for their housing budget.
That quest, said Hardy, can take them to offerings in either city or in rural areas of both Oktibbeha and Lowndes counties.
“You can get around price and interest rates,” Hardy said in explanation of the current Columbus-Starkville real estate market, “but the toughest market obstacles are having high demand and limited supply.
“Where are you going to put them?”