SPD renovation receives Mississippi Heritage Trust Award

Architects Justin and Sally Zahner and SPD Chief Frank Nichols accepted the Mississippi Heritage Trust Award for the renovations of the Starkville Police Department. (Submitted photo)
Staff Writer

The Starkville Police Department and Shafer Zahner Zahner Office of Architecture received an award from the Mississippi Heritage Trust for the renovation of the SPD building last year.

The Mississippi Heritage Trust has recognized over 200 preservation success stories of Mississippians who have done their part to protect historic buildings in the state.

Sally Zahner, one of the architects on the project, nominated the project for the award.

“It means a lot to me being that I’ve been here 26 years,” SPD Chief Frank Nichols said. “Knowing from where we came from to what we’re in now is kind of unbelievable that this could come out of what we were in before. I remember raw sewage in the building coming up through the floors and crammed spaces. Just coming from that and being able to preserve the building just means a lot.”

Nichols said the building was previously home to SPD and all the other departments in City Hall prior to the renovation and the construction of the new City Hall. SPD Public Information Officer Brandon Lovelady said the building was constructed in the 1930s. During the renovations, the building was rebuilt from the ground up, keeping many of the original features including hardwood floors, wooden doors, windows and a stage with stage lights.

“It was an older building to begin with, but it’s location and the structure and the character and elements that were already there were irreplaceable,” Zahner said. “They say, ‘Old buildings have great bones.’ Well that building had great bones. We just needed some TLC to bring it back to life and make it into a state-of-the-art facility, and that’s what we were able to do.”

Lovelady said the first renovation meeting took place in August of 2016, and the department hosted a grand re-opening in October of 2017.

Zahner said there is no way a building of the same size could have been built in their budget if they did not already have the existing building.

“You can’t put a price tag on some of those original features, and the city got an incredible value by utilizing an existing resource rather than acquiring property and building a new building,” Zahner said.

Nichols said the improved facilities has helped the morale of SPD by allowing them to function day-to-day in one place together in one location. Around 75 percent of the department have their own office or workspace, he said.

Nichols said in his 26 years of work, he has visited numerous departments throughout the state, and he has yet to see another facility that looks better of is more user-friendly than their building.

Nichols said the award means a lot to him because SPD now has a part of history that is recognized on a state level and makes Starkville’s downtown even more attractive.

“We are very proud of it,” Zahner said. “And we are very proud to get to work with the city and the police department in particular on that project. We recognize they are some of the most dedicated civil servants, and we are excited they get a new home in a historic building.”