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New committee could vet Mill parking deck proposals


Carl Smith



The process of seeking professional services for the former CottonMill development project has started, and Starkville aldermen will again deliberate over housekeeping measures associated with the venture at their 5:30 p.m. City Hall meeting tonight. 


Requests for proposals (RFP) were recently published for architectural services and a construction manager for a four-level, 650-space parking deck tied into development now known as "The Mill." An $8 million Community Development Block Grant through the Mississippi Development Authority is tied in with the project. 


Officials have yet to determine a specific location within the proposed development for the parking deck, but Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman said the project would boost the potential for dense development by providing parking needs and because of the area's proximity to Mississippi State University. 


Future public transportation routes could be adjusted to intermingle with the area and its parking capacity, he said. 


"I'm pleased with the process this project is making," Wiseman said. "We still have a long way to go, but we've got a dedicated development group that is working diligently to see this project to completion." 


RFPs are due no later than 10 a.m. Wednesday, documentation states. The Starkville City Clerk's Office has not received any proposals associated with either search as of Monday, a spokesperson for that office said, but submissions are expected. 


Phylis Benson, a project analysis with the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District, will ask aldermen to form a review committee for the expected proposals. 


The proposed board is expected to consist of Wiseman, a sitting alderman, a Cooley Center LLC representative and a Mississippi State University representative and will be tasked to review proposals for both architectural services and the construction manager search. 


In a memo dated Feb. 28, Benson told aldermen David Shaw, MSU vice president for research and economic development, and regional developer Mark Castleberry have both expressed interest in sitting on the committee. 


Phone calls placed to Castleberry and Wiseman were not Monday. 


The committee will rate all proposals associated with the architectural and construction manager searches with a 100-point scale based upon qualifications, experience and project personnel. 


Once the committee finishes its review, negotiations will begin to determine a mutually satisfactory contract first with the highest-rated firm. If a contract cannot be negotiated, the firm will be requested to submit a best and final offer in writing. If an agreement cannot be reached then, negotiations will begin with the next best-rated group. 


This process, the proposed construction manager RFP states, will continue until a mutually satisfactory deal is struck. 


"In addition to reaching a fair and reasonable price for the required work, the objective of negotiations will be to reach an agreement on the provisions of the proposed contract including scope and extent of work and other essential requirements," the RFP states. 


Both RFPs share similar rating requirements and negotiation language, and proposals are due the same day. 


In its February recess meeting, Starkville aldermen approved amendments to the CDBG grant in a housekeeping measure. Wiseman then said the city will issue a memorandum of agreement with Castleberry while the related project entities pursue the grant. This memorandum, he said in February, assures the Mississippi Development Authority that the project is moving on track. 


Prior to that meeting, Castleberry said he would ask for a 15-year, $3.25 million tax increment financing (TIF) agreement for infrastructure improvements associated with The Mill development. 


The TIF, as suggested by Castleberry, would utilize 75 percent of ad valorem and sales tax returns for debt payments associated with development. A previous 95 percent TIF agreement was reached between governing bodies and the project's former developer, Mark Nicholas, Castleberry said February. 


The Mill development now focuses on transforming MSU's historic Cooley Building into a conference center, constructing a nearby hotel and developing business parcels in the land adjacent to the university's old physical plant. 


Once financing packages are agreed upon, Castleberry said in February, he will finalize master plans and move into developing construction documents.  


In other business, the board is scheduled to hold two public hearings - one on amending the municipal street map; the other, on proposed changes to the city's landscape ordinance - and will hear a request by 2013 Cotton District Arts Festival Co-chairs Laurie Burton and Jon Turner for $9,505.82 of in-kind services. 


Finally, the board will not address nine listed zoning changes associated with a recent First Baptist Church request for future child care services. Wiseman said an appeal was filed against the Starkville Board of Adjustment and Appeals' recent variance issuance. The 10-day appeal period from that process has yet to expire, Wiseman said, and City Attorney Chris Latimer advised those matters not be taken up by the board tonight.


Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch



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