University Drive project looking to move forward

Austin Montgomery
City Reporter

The Catalyst mixed-use development project in the Cotton District will seek approval to move forward with zoning conditions placed on the project following Tuesday's Starkville Board of Aldermen meeting.

The board approved rezoning of six parcels north of University Drive with conditions to build a construction easement to connect University Drive and College View Drive, buildings within 170 feet of University Drive not exceed four stories, all first floor buildings must be retail, a buffer be placed along the western property line, storm water runoff meet necessary ordinances and a traffic study be conducted near the site, according to the Feb. 16 agenda.

"Walking out of the meeting on Tuesday, there were some conditions put on us that make it a little bit challenging, but nothing that we can't overcome with the possible exception of the easement construction," said Capital Growth Associate Chris Kritzman. "We are going to work hard to get that satisfied."

The property that lies between College View Drive and University Drive is privately owned, meaning Capital Growth must get approval from the site's owner—Richard Adkerson—to build the connecting easement, Kritzman said.

Adkerson could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Any easement construction could take place within the utility right-of-way on the property, according to Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker.

The easement would connect College View Drive and University Drive, mitigating construction traffic on University Drive and allowing all materials to be brought in through a "back door," Kritzman said.

"I think for the construction easement, it's an important factor to have construction traffic enter from College View Drive and while it's certainly something that has to be approved by the property owner, I believe there is an avenue for that to take place," Walker said. "I am very hopeful that it can get done."

If Adkerson denies Capital Growth's construction easement, the firm would need to seek board approval to remove the condition, Kritzman said. He hoped the project could begin building the easement within 60 days, if agreed upon.

"We can appeal that condition if need be but we are going to try as hard as we can to get the condition met," Kritzman said.

The student-focused mixed-use project would bring 250 units to the Cotton District, with retailers filling the first level of the complex. The total size of the project was reduced by 30 percent following concerns at the Oct. 13 planning and zoning meeting after density issues surfaced.

In November, Capital Growth associates met with residents to unveil revamped design plans after the Oct. 13 meeting drew ire from community members to the project's outlying design. Construction costs for the planned project would be over $40 million after land acquisitions and other building expenses, Kritzman said.

"This project will have a significant economic impact," Kritzman said. "That's really the tip of the iceberg."

According to a National Association of Home Builders study, the project is estimated to provide around $50 million in direct and indirect economic impact for the city during construction, Kritzman said.

The study focused on generated taxes from building materials, construction and outside firms visiting Starkville over the duration of the building period. The project should break ground late in the fourth quarter of 2016 and be open in the summer of 2018, according to Kritzman.

But Walker cautioned the site must take the right steps going forward to ensure longterm growth in the Cotton District.

"I think that if it doesn't allow interconnectivity between University Drive and College View Drive, the adjacent properties and access points to the Adkerson property to the north and to the east, it could be a short-term economic gain but has the chance to curtail longterm economic development," Walker said.