STARKVILLE — The state College Board has approved a series of agreements finalizing plans for the Cotton Mill project at Mississippi State University.
The Starkville structure was built in 1902 as the Stone Cotton Mill and was indirectly associated with MSU for a time. MSU bought it in 1965, three years after the mill closed, and it now belongs to MSU’s physical plant department. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The project will transform MSU’s Cooley Building into a conference building with office space, a 450-space parking facility, a Marriot Courtyard Hotel and mixed-use business parcels.
MSU will sell a portion of its property for a hotel, lease the Cooley Building and utilize some of its office space. MSU’s facilities management department, which is based out of the Cooley Building, will move temporarily until a replacement facility is built.
Developer Mark Castleberry told The Commercial Dispatch that he is awaiting approval from the National Parks Service for Cooley Building renovations.
“This is the culmination of months and months of work with MSU, but we do need NPS to drop the hammer,” he said. “We’ve been working closely with them for about nine months. This is the last bit of information they should need.”
Although the federal government’s shutdown delayed the last approval, and a bottlenecking of requests could further exacerbate the problem, Castleberry said he is hopeful NPS will soon green-light the development.
“We have refused to settle for anything that did not meet our highest expectations – logistically, aesthetically or financially,” MSU President Mark Keenum said in a news release.
“We are confident that we have it right and we’re grateful that the state College Board shares our vision. 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 Cotton 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 utilizing an $8 million Community Development Block Grant from the Mississippi Development Authority.
“Efforts to bring this development to fruition on this site have been underway for about 10 years,” Keenum said. “It has 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.”