By Dennis Seid
STARKVILLE – In about 18 months, a new conference center, hotel and parking garage will become what the developer calls a “gateway to Mississippi State University and a bridge between the university and the city.”
The $40 million project is being developed by Mark Castleberry’s Castle Properties of Columbus and Peachtree Hotel Group of Atlanta.
Castleberry was selected by the university two years ago to develop the site after previous attempts faltered. He said that all told, about $100 million will have been invested in the project from start to finish.
MSU President Mark Keenum said the project will have a “transformative effect on Mississippi State and Starkville. … I’ve always said if it’s good for Starkville and Oktibbeha County, it’s good for Mississippi State and vice-versa.”
More than 100 state and local leaders took part in a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday at the historic E.E. Cooley Building which was built in 1902 as a cotton mill and later was the university’s physical plant.
The nearly 11-acre site at the corner of Russell Street and Highway 12 will feature a 73,975-square-foot office and conference center with a 1,000-seat ballroom. A four-story 110-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel will adjoin the complex, as well as a 450-car parking garage.
Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman, like other speakers at Thursday’s event, praised the collaborative efforts of everyone who made the public-private partnership work to bring the decade-long project to fruition.
“This is not just a development project; this is the dawning of a new era,” he said.
Keenum said the conference center will allow the university and the city to bring visitors to the area in a venue that wasn’t previously available.
“This project is a win-win-win for all of us,” he said.