STARKVILLE — Despite months of negotiations, developers of the CottonMill Marketplace project still have not reached an agreement with Mississippi State University on the sale of the historic E.E. Cooley building.
A preliminary contract between the two sides expired in May and talks about the purchase are still ongoing, said Wendy Peavy, marketing and public policy director for developer Comvest Properties. Neither side Wednesday would disclose many details of the ongoing negotiations.
Plans for the development call for Comvest and fellow developer Nicholas Properties to purchase the Cooley building from MSU and transform it into a conference center with retail and office space.
During previous negotiations, the developers wanted Mississippi State to lease space in the Cooley building — once the developers bought and renovated it — and pay $600,000 a year in rent. MSU, however, balked at the deal.
“But that has nothing to do with this anymore because the contract is being re-negotiated,” Peavy said.
Kyle Steward, executive director of external affairs at MSU, said the university is in the process of seeking legal advice about a newly proposed contract. He wouldn”t disclose the new contract”s terms, either.
“We are still in discussions with the developers,” Steward said in an e-mail. “There are some issues in the proposed contract that require official interpretation from the attorney general”s office. We are seeking clarification that all of the components in the proposal are fully compliant with state law.”
Steward said he hopes the ongoing talks will help the project one day come to fruition.
“The bottom line is that Mississippi State University has continued to have a dialogue with the developers on this project,” he said. “We have bent over backwards, in fact, in efforts to reach a deal. There is no question that an undertaking of this size and scope would benefit MSU, the community, and the region, and we want to be a part of its success. At the same time, we must ensure that any agreement is in the best interests of the University and that it is on solid legal ground. We have consulted with the legal staff at the Institutions of Higher Learning and asked that IHL request an official attorney general”s opinion on these contract issues. We have requested that it be done in an expedited manner.”
The proposed CottonMill site adjoins Highway 12 between Russell Street and Spring Street.
A portion of the property is home to the Cooley building, which is used by Mississippi State University”s facilities management department for storage and warehouse space, but also houses business offices, shops and management personnel, among other things.
The CottonMill project ultimately would feature a hotel and two major anchor stores, though the names of possible tenants haven”t been released. A significant amount of retail space, offices and condominiums also are planned.