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After years of discussion and countless changes, the Mill at MSU development broke ground today

Once a project that I don't think any of us thought would actually get built, the Mill at MSU development just off campus broke ground this afternoon.

Yes, I know this is a sports blog.  And yes, I know that my last post ON THIS SPORTS BLOG was about campus bathrooms, so this diatribe on an off-campus construction project could push me closer to being a habitual offender of this sites' purpose and scope.  But I felt like this update was worth sharing with you all, because most of us that love MSU sports also love Starkville, the City.

Which if that is the case, and you've kept up with happenings and developments in Starkville since you graduated/left school on mutual terms, then you've probably heard of the "Mill at MSU" development.

The Mill at MSU, aka Cotton Mills, aka various other names, is a long-discussed and debated development located at the site of the old Physical Plant, which was once housed by the E.E. Cooley building.  The development was once planned to be massive, with the grounds ranging from Spring Street to Russell Street to Highway 12, encompassing almost all of the land in between.  As one can expect, a development that big anywhere faces a number of hurdles, and in a small town such as Starkville, those hurdles proved to be too much for it to overcome.  Those of us who were rooting for the project became frustrated, and then we just forgot about it altogether.

Mill at MSU

photo courtesy Mississippi State University |

Over the past decade or so we would hear whispers of the projects possible revival, only for nothing to happen at all.  That is, until recently when developer Mark Castleberry got involved.  Castleberry scaled back and re-worked the project, and today he made The Mill at MSU - which has been changed, reduced, revised, reworked, and everything else over the last decade or so - become a reality with the ceremonial groundbreaking at the site.

The project as it exists today includes the renovation of the E.E. Cooley building, which will become a much-needed conference center to service the campus and community.  A Courtyard by Marriott hotel will be built behind the new conference center, and the development of "mixed-use business parcels" will occur on the property adjacent to these two.  There is also a parking garage planned as part of the overall development, but I do not know if the groundbreaking today includes this part of the project or not.

As someone who cares greatly for Starkville, I can't say enough how excited I am to see this project finally happening.  The hotel will be a major benefit for those coming to town for game days, and the conference center can hopefully attract more conferences - and therefore tourism dollars - to the sister town to MSU's campus.  As for the "mixed-use business parcels", I would expect to see restaurants and other storefronts pop up here.  As is the case with most developments in Starkville, there are already rumors on what will go in as part of this development.  While my personal preference is to see more local businesses and restaurants (LOOKING AT YOU TY THAMES), I can understand the staying power of chain businesses, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a few chain restaurants end up at the site.  Anything - and I do mean anything - is better on the land than the abandoned movie theater and Cooley center in its current state, so I'm mostly just excited to see what many call the "front door to the university", and really the front door to Starkville as well, getting a significant facelift that we've wanted for so long.

Hail State, and Hail Starkville