STARKVILLE, Miss.–The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning today approved a series of interrelated agreements that finalize plans for The Mill development, according to Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum.
“We have refused to settle for anything that did not meet our highest expectations–logistically, aesthetically or financially,” said Keenum. “And we are confident that we have it right and we’re grateful that the state College Board shares our vision.”
The project will bring a conference center, hotel and parking garage complex centered around MSU’s historic E.E. Cooley Building. The Mill development includes three main projects: transforming the landmark former cotton mill into a conference center with adjacent office space, building an adjacent hotel and developing mixed-use business parcels in the land adjacent to the university’s old physical plant.
Plans call for MSU to sell some property to the developer to become the site of a Marriott Courtyard Hotel and one or more restaurants, lease the Cooley Building to the developer to be renovated as a conference center, and for MSU to lease back some office space in the building for university use.
MSU’s Facilities Management staff is already moving out of the Cooley Building, which has been their base of operations for many years. The division will be housed in various temporary locations until a replacement facility can be built on Buckner Lane, near existing services such as landscaping and transportation–actions which the College Board also approved.
Keenum said: “Mississippi State has needed a conference center capable of accommodating large academic and professional meetings for many years. The university also needs a more dynamic gateway directly across the street from this main entrance to campus, where we adjoin the city of Starkville.
“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,” said Keenum. “It will also create closer town-gown relations and give an economic boost to the area. And it will preserve and protect one of the oldest and most historic buildings on our campus.
“Efforts to bring this development to fruition on this site have been under way for about 10 years,” said Keenum. “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.”
MSU purchased the John M. Stone Cotton Mill in 1965 and renamed it after the school’s former superintendent of utilities, E.E. Cooley. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
In August, the state College Board approved a land-use agreement between MSU and the city of Starkville for the project’s parking garage.
The prior agreement leased a 1.67-acre parcel on which a 450-space parking garage will be constructed to lease to the city for 10 years. The city will use an $8 million Community Development Block Grant from the Mississippi Development Authority to construct the facility. At the end of the lease, the garage will become MSU’s property.
The August agreement provided that MSU and the city will equally share any profits generated from the garage and obligated the university to provide public parking space, including slots for the planned Cooley Center’s conference and office space and the incoming Marriot hotel.
In April, the Starkville Board of Aldermen approved a 15-year, $3.25 million-maximum tax increment financing agreement associated with the project. The TIF utilizes 75 percent of ad valorem and sales tax returns for debt payments. Monies from the agreement will help pay for various infrastructure projects associated with The Mill at MSU.