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“We’re really, really close”

The $70-million CottonMill Marketplace mixed-use development in Starkville is as close to happening as it ever has been, according to one of the developers.

“We’re finishing up the last few details of financing,” Mark Nicholas, of Ridgeland-based Nicholas Properties, said last week. “We continue to work toward finishing that up, and we believe we’re really, really close.”

Nicholas didn’t have a specific date for the financing part to end and construction to begin, which would happen almost immediately. In an interview with the Mississippi Business Journal last December, Nicholas said he hoped to have financing for the project complete by the end of 2010. That was just before the bond market saw billions of dollars’ worth of bond holders exit the market.

CottonMill will have as its centerpiece the historic E.E. Cooley building that sits on the fringe of the campus of Mississippi State University, and was the longtime home of that institution’s physical plant. It will be remade into a convention center. Adjacent development will include retail space, residential units, a hotel and restaurants.

The 107-year-old E.E. Cooley Building, right across from the campus of Mississippi State University, started out as a cotton mill and currently houses MSU’s physical plant.

The 107-year-old E.E. Cooley Building, right across from the campus of Mississippi State University, started out as a cotton mill and currently houses MSU’s physical plant.

The project has been in the works for nearly half a decade. The original developers backed out once the recession tightened credit markets, killing CottonMill and many a similar project. Nicholas took it over a little more than two years ago. Since, he has been trying to pull together a financing package that involves state and federal new market tax credits, state and federal historic tax credits, grants and private loans.  A dispute with a Starkville developer over the proximity to the old University Inn set the project even further. That dispute has since been resolved.

“It’s a very complex financing infrastructure,” Nicholas said. “It’s a very sophisticated mechanism. All the different tax credits, the grants, they all fold in at different times.”

The City of Starkville is providing about $8.5 million in tax increment financing.

“The board and elected officials have done everything we can on our end to make sure this happens,” said Ward 1 Starkville alderman Ben Carver. “We’ve met all the minority contractor minimums. We’ve done everything to make sure we are ready to go. It’s out of our hands at this point, but everybody – the board, the mayor – supports it. It would be a tremendous boost to Starkville and the Golden Triangle as a whole.”

Mississippi State’s old physical plant building is one of the most historic buildings in Starkville.

Mississippi State’s old physical plant building is one of the most historic buildings in Starkville.

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