By Dennis Seid
STARKVILLE – After a decade of watching and waiting, the $40 million The Mill project finally is getting off the ground.
On Thursday, officials will break ground at the former cotton mill that also was Mississippi State University’s physical plant.
The public ceremony will be held at 3:30 p.m.
The Mill project will turn the E.E. Cooley Building into a conference center with office space, add an adjacent hotel and include a 450-space parking garage.
“This goes back to when Charles Lee was president of the university,” said current MSU President Mark Keenum.
A combination of private investment and public funding, the project will bring a much-needed asset that will benefit both the university and the community, Keenum said.
“We’re bringing a state-of-the-art conference center with office space, something that’s been sorely needed,” he said.
The university retains ownership of the property, while the developer will have a long-term lease.
MSU has smaller conference space available at a variety of locations on campus, including the Colvard Student Union. The ballroom there can hold a maximum of 500 people; the new conference center will double that capacity.
“We also have Humphrey Coliseum, but that’s not conducive for conferences,” Keenum said.
“But the conference center is available to the public, not just to the university,” he added.
The new offices also provide the university with much-needed working space.
Additional land around the building will be developed for mixed-used purposes.
Mississippi State bought the John M. Stone Cotton Mill in 1965 and renamed it after the school’s superintendent of utilities, E.E. Cooley. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.