New name, new developer push Starkville development forward

economic development_webGolden Triangle developer Mark Castleberry took over the old CottonMill Marketplace development in Starkville last fall, and has since changed its name and started the process of getting its design approved by state and federal historical designation agencies.

The mixed-use development, which sits on the edge of Mississippi State University’s campus, changed ownership 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.

Now that Castleberry has the project, Cooley Center Development is its new name, drawn from the Cooley Building, which will be its centerpiece. Castleberry, though, said last week it was likely a more marketing-friendly name would eventually be chosen.

Castleberry, managing partner of Cooley Center Development, LLC, said the project would be done in phases, with the development of the 111-year-old Cooley Building — which once served as a stone textile mill and then housed Mississippi State’s physical plant — being the main draw.

“And that will be the most challenging part of it,” Castleberry said. “That’s always been the case, because it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More than anything, in order for the project to be financially viable, we must develop it in a way where it qualified for historic tax credits. That’s a bit of a process.”

Castleberry said his proposed design for the Cooley Building got an early-January preliminary approval from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. It now moves to the National Parks Service, which will have final say whether the design meets the standards for historic buildings. Castleberry hopes to have that agency’s answer sometime in February

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.

“Based on that response, we’ll have a much better idea where our project sits,” he said. “A positive response from the Parks Service would actually let us put a development schedule out there. Obviously, the state, the city, Mississippi State and all parties involved agree that Cooley must be developed. So we have a bit of a challenge as to how to make sure those parties’ interest is protected. We have to do the difficult part of it, which is Cooley, and not just the easier parts of it.”

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.

“But we’re still trying to understate and over-deliver,” he said.

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