STARKVILLE, Miss.--Transformation of the historic John M. Stone Cotton Mill--formerly known as Mississippi State's E.E. Cooley Building--into a state-of-the-art conference and meeting complex is on track, according to the project's developer.
"We are less than a year away from completion," said Mark Castleberry of Columbus, who is leading development of The Mill at Mississippi State University with Peachtree Hotel Group of Sandy Springs, Ga.
"We are on target for June 2015," he said.
Ground was broken for The Mill in late March following a multi-year, collaborative effort by public and private entities, all interested in preserving the best of the landmark's structure while creating new economic opportunities.
Thursday [July 10], staff members in MSU's Office of Research and Economic Development joined Castleberry for a tour of the 10.89-acre worksite that was buzzing with construction activity.
Located at the corner of Russell Street and state Highway 12, the 73,975-square-foot conference center will feature a 1,000-seat ballroom, breakout rooms and onsite catering, as well as Class A office space. The latest communication technologies, including high-speed Internet, wireless connectivity and more, will be integrated throughout the facility.
Original brick, exposed wood beams and columns, open spaces, and abundant natural light will be preserved after the renovation is finished, Castleberry said.
Built in 1902, the property was purchased by the university in 1965 and served for decades as the land-grant institution's physical plant administration headquarters.
"We have very strict rules to follow since the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places," he explained.
The mill was listed on the registry in 1975.
"It is very exciting to see how The Mill is taking shape," said David Shaw, Mississippi State's vice president for research and economic development.
"The cotton mill is a significant symbol of agriculture and industrialization in our state, and now we are witnessing its repurposing here into a 21st century economic asset for the local community and larger region," Shaw added.
A new four-story, 110-room Courtyard by Marriott Hotel will adjoin the center, along with a 450-car parking garage.
"We expect to complete the hotel a few months after the conference center," Castleberry said.
Mixed-use parcels for retail, restaurant and residential development also are part of the $40-million project.
In remarks at the March groundbreaking ceremony, MSU President Mark E. Keenum said, "What we are about to build here will have both immediate and far-reaching benefits for Mississippi State University and for the surrounding area. It will also be a testament to the power of partnerships, without which none of this would have been accomplished."
Dale Partners is providing architectural services, while Copeland & Johns Inc. serves as construction manager. Both are based in Jackson.
The National Parks Service, Mississippi Department of Archives and History and Mississippi Development Authority all have been integrally involved in the project.
Mississippi State is online at www.msstate.edu.