$50 million Mill at Vicksburg project gets Vicksburg Council approval

A piece of Vicksburg history will now become a part of its future. Construction could begin in early 2019 on the $50 million redevelopment of Vicksburg’s old paper mill site as the project moved another step closer to kickoff this week.

State approval of a brownfield redevelopment application is the last significant hurdle facing the project after this week’s unanimous stamp of approval by the Vicksburg Village Council.

More than 150 people were on hand Oct. 29 to witness the Council’s 7-0 vote to green light the Paper City Development’s “Mill at Vicksburg” project. 

The plan calls for converting the 100-year-old site of the historic Vicksburg paper mill into a campus filled with breweries, barley malting, and hops processing facilities, light manufacturing and support services. Some buildings are earmarked for residential and office space as well.

Village of Vicksburg manager Jim Mallery says the council’s  7-0 vote “reiterates our commitment to helping grow this community with innovative projects like The Mill. 

“We believe that the Mill will add to our current events and projects that are helping establish the Village as a destination,” he adds. “We look forward to engaging in the next steps of the project with Paper City Development.”

During its heyday, the 420,000-square-foot former Lee Paper Company paper mill employed 250 workers and was the largest employer in Vicksburg. The factory was spared from the wrecking ball in 2014 and has been nominated to the National Registry of Historic Places. 

The multi-use development plan keeps the original U-shaped buildings that formed the basis of the mill and uses an adjacent 80 acres to the west as well.

Jackie Koney, project manager, Paper City Development, LLC, says the team appreciated both the Village Council’s approval and the show of community support for the project.

“(This) will allow us to continue proceeding with Chris Moore's vision of redeveloping the former mill and making it, once again, the point of pride for Vicksburg,“ Koney said. 

 “From taking tours, providing feedback at our Q&A sessions, advocating at public events and expressing genuine excitement for Chris' vision, our 'mill hugger' advocates have been an inspiration.”

Koney says construction could begin in the spring of 2019 if all goes as planned. The next step is to receive a decision on a Transformational Brownfield Plan application, which has been submitted to the state.

“The Transformational Brownfield application is the last piece of financing that we are waiting on,” Koney says. “If we hear by early 2019 then we hope to begin construction soon after. We do have additional zoning-related matters that we’ll present to the village, but those will come in phases over the next year.”

Koney says the first phases of construction will focus on building stabilization, building out on the east wing and various site improvements.

“We are hopeful to open some portions of The Mill in 2020, including a walking trail that leads downtown, indoor space for small concerts, conferences and special events, a brewery and taproom and perhaps a distillery,” Koney says.

Although the team's primary focus is working with local and state officials to move the vision for the mill forward, the mill site is currently also being used for an artist residency program, an effort to let people engage with the property in the meantime.

Three artists are selected each year by a panel of judges and given complete access to the mill and its surrounding acreage for a four- to seven-week residency at the mill.

Since the program’s inception, nine artists have participated in that program.

“Our intent is to continue operating the Prairie Ronde artist residency program,” Koney says, “however, the format may change from its current arrangement.”

“We are eager to continue advancing our plan and help create a thriving Vicksburg for years to come.”

Read more articles by Rosemary Parker.

Rosemary Parker has worked as a writer and editor for more than 40 years, most of that time in Southwest Michigan.