June 7, 2017 11:24:46 AM
A tone of both optimism and stern warning fueled Vice Mayor Roy A. Perkins' support Tuesday for a measure to amend the city of Starkville's tax-increment financing agreement with the Cotton Mill Hotel Group.
Moments before the unanimous vote to adjust the agreement, Perkins pushed developer Mark Nicholas for guarantees he would hold up to his end of the bargain or else the board would not be bound to the new terms. Chiefly, Nicholas must present aldermen written, signed proof he agrees to the terms by 5 p.m. July 7.
"You're going to do that right? You're not going to let the vice mayor and the city of Starkville down, right?" asked Perkins, who represents Ward 6. "If you do not do these things, this (resolution) would have no force or effect on the city of Starkville. In other words, if you don't do what we're requiring you to do, this motion thereby shall be rescinded with no force and effect and with no further action by the board."
Nicholas now plans to build an estimated $21 million "luxury boutique hotel" and steak house at an area off Highway 12 next to his Cotton Mill Marketplace Development -- where businesses such as Salsarita's Fresh Cantina, Jimmy John's and Hungry Howie's Pizza are located -- after initial efforts to develop a Holiday Inn at the site fell through.
Aldermen previously approved a tax-increment financing deal that would reimburse Nicholas for 75 percent of both the city sales and ad valorem tax collections at the site for 15 years. Under the new agreement, Nicholas would waive his right to receive any city sales tax through the TIF for the development while he pursues a tourism initiative rebate from the Mississippi Development Authority for 80 percent of total sales tax collected at the site for 15 years. The new deal also reduces the ad valorem portion of the TIF agreement to 60 percent.
If MDA approves the Cotton Mill hotel project for the tourism rebate, it will provide roughly four times more in incentives, Mayor Parker Wiseman said. The state keeps 81.5 percent of all sales tax collected in Starkville and turns back 18.5 percent to the city. A TIF agreement would only provide rebates from the 18.5 percent turned back, while the MDA program would provide rebates from total sales tax collections at the site.
Nicholas told aldermen Tuesday the new development would bring roughly 150 permanent jobs to Starkville, including full-time and part-time positions -- 100 at the hotel and 50 at the restaurant.
Construction will begin Aug. 1, Nicholas said, and the project will be complete "before football season" in 2018. He added there are "no outstanding issues" that would prevent him from developing the property.
"We have got our financing in place," he told aldermen. "... This luxury boutique hotel will be something the city can be extremely proud of."
Nicholas narrowly avoided foreclosure on the hotel property twice within the past year. He owns a total of six acres in Highway 12/Spring Street area, including the undeveloped hotel spot, the Cotton Mill Marketplace retail center and the land that houses the Buffalo Wild Wings and Chick-Fil-A restaurants.
Perkins commended Nicholas for his dedication to seeing thorough the project, despite its many obstacles, as well as his willingness to compromise on the ad valorem portion of the TIF agreement.
"If this hotel is built, it will put Starkville on the level with other Southeastern Conference towns," Perkins said. "... You could've taken this project anywhere else. We appreciate your commitment. We appreciate your presence."
Managing Editor Zack Plair and Reporter Cristina Carreon contributed to this article.
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