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Construction on Mill at MSU could start by end of 2013

The Mill at MSU has moved to the second phase of the approval process through the National Parks Service.

Golden Triangle developer Mark Castleberry took over the old CottonMill Marketplace development last fall, and has since changed its name and gotten preliminary design approval for the Cooley Center, an old textile mill that sits on the National Register of Historic Places and will serve as the development’s centerpiece.

The mixed-use development, which sits on the edge of Mississippi State University’s campus, changed ownership last year when the school allowed the contract it had with Ridgeland-based Nicholas Properties to expire without renewing it. Mark Nicholas and his partner, Mark Boutwell, had worked on the project for several years.

Since taking control of the project, Castleberry has spent the last several months wading through the first steps of the approval process for the Cooley building. That now moves to the second phase, which entails Castleberry making what he called “a more formal request” for the agency to approve the Cooley Center’s design. Castleberry hopes will be completed early this fall.

“We’re going forward with preliminary design work now that we’ve gotten design approval,” he said in an interview this week. He added that he hopes to start construction by the end of this year. If that happens, the development could be open sometime in the second quarter of 2015.

Castleberry said his proposed design for the Cooley Building got in early January preliminary approval from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. It then moved to the National Parks Service, which will have final say whether the design meets the standards for historic buildings.

A lot rides on it. Castleberry said, besides the development’s look, its construction schedule would be determined by the response from the Parks Service. Castleberry said he was prepared to build the project in phases, which will be broken down in some order among the hotel, parking garage, infrastructure and the development of outparcels. The parking garage – which will have three bays and four levels – will have a parking capacity of 650 vehicles, and is being paid for by an $8 million community development block grant issued by the Mississippi Development Authority. The city of Starkville is managing that part of the project.

The Parks Service signing off on the design is crucial, because it makes the project eligible for historic and new market tax credits.

“How long that lasts will determine overall construction schedule, because that dictates historic tax credits,” Castleberry said.

Castleberry said he has “multiple” outlets interested in the credits when he’s ready to take advantage of them. “We’re in a very confident position there,” Castleberry said.

The Cooley Building will be remade into a conference center and office space. To go with the parking garage and the hotel, Castleberry said he would ideally like to include two to three restaurants in the final version of the development. The demolition of everything on the site that is not on the Historic Register, to go with restaurant and hotel construction, will likely make up the first phase. Work on the Cooley Building making up the second phase. “And the space between those phases will likely only last maybe six months,” Castleberry said.

With the preliminary approval from the National Parks Service, the phases are starting to take shape, Castleberry said. “It really is coming together. We have two teams on this project. We have the design and construction and engineering team and we have the financial team. Fortunately the pieces have come together on both sides.”


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