OUR OPINION: The Mill at MSU advances the university’s accessibility

Mississippi State University and Starkville mark a milestone development event today at the formal groundbreaking for a $40 million rehabilitation and expansion of the historic structure called The Mill – a 1902 former cotton mill listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The distinctive property, from the same era as the former Tupelo Cotton Mill building on South Spring Street adjacent to the BNSF Railroad, has been owned by the university since 1965 and housed MSU’s physical maintenance operations, known as the Cooley Building to generations of students.

The Mill will become a fully developed conference, meeting and business center rivaling any other similar facility and operation at an American university. It will include a hotel, meeting and conference rooms, a 1,000 capacity ballroom and some university offices, mixing private retail and university operations in the kind of blend that thrives in many college towns.

The 3:30 p.m. groundbreaking event will feature drawings and photos of the mill through the decades and architectural renderings of what the redeveloped property will look like.

Initial planning for The Mill concept began more than a decade ago, during the presidency of Dr. Charles Lee. A late 2013 vote by the trustees of Mississippi’s public universities was the final hurdle for today’s groundbreaking.

The project will include a 450-space parking garage, a much-needed addition for the 20,000-student campus which attracts thousands of visitors every year.

The Mill will ratchet up what MSU and Starkville can offer for conferences and meetings, including academic and corporate gatherings and private individual events.

The university retains ownership of the property, while the developer will have a long-term lease.

MSU President Mark 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 trustee-approved agreement provides 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 center’s conference and office space and the anticipated Marriott Courtyard Hotel.

The initiative and perseverance of MSU, Starkville and private investors will reap benefits for decades after the project is completed.

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  • Oliver Paladin

    Much like Tupelo Fairpark, a National Phoenix Award winner in 2008 for brownfield redevelopment, I expect the Mill at MSU Brownfield Redevelopment to give Mississippi another chance to win an additional Phoenix Award in a couple of years. Project in Jackson (GSA Federal Courthouse Brownfield Project) and CSX’s redevelopment of the former Gautier Oil Creosote site won the award in 2012 and 2013. With the City of Starkville now in possession of a Federal Brownfield Assessment Grant (for 2 more years), we may see developers look toward sustainable revitalization throughout the City.