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By David Howell
JACKSON – The Water Valley Main Street Association and Everest received the Outstanding Historic Rehabilitation Commercial Project Award during the Mississippi Main Street Association’s annual awards luncheon in Jackson last Thursday. The annual luncheon recognizes Main Street directors, board members and volunteers for outstanding downtown development projects and events from Main Street communities across the state.
The award was presented to Base Camp Coding Academy’s board members Kagan Coughlin, Glen Evans and Carla Lewis following the transformation of the largest historic building in Water Valley into the state’s first rural education and innovation hub. Known for decades as the Rice-Stix building, the 2020 restoration converted the long-abandoned textile factory into Everest, which houses Base Camp Coding Academy, Northwest Mississippi Community College and an entrepreneurial space.
Coughlin also received the Mississippi Main Street Association’s Trailblazer Award during the luncheon, recognition that stems from 98,000 square feet of historic rehabilitation in Water Valley. The list of buildings renovated by Coughlin includes the B.T.C. building, a 140-year-old heyday icon that was set for demolition when he and his wife, Alexe van Beuren, purchased it in 2007. In 2015 Coughlin completed a year-long restoration of four Main Street buildings known as Blu-Buck Mercantile that encompass an entire city block. In these derelict spaces are now a celebrated grocery store, a doctor’s office, a coffee shop and a furniture store, as well as upstairs apartments in addition to Everest.
In 2019 Coughlin led efforts by Base Camp Coding Academy, a non-profit, to purchase and renovate the 68,000 square foot Rice Stix building that was renamed Everest when the project was completed last year. Base Camp earned the support of the Appalachian Regional Commission, Delta Regional Authority, USDA and private corporations to help fund the $4.7 million restoration. The non-profit also used historic tax and New Market credits and Coughlin’s own sweat on the project.
Coughlin’s efforts have earned him recognition in Preservation Magazine and Main Street America President Patrice Frey has walked his job sites. He was on the first Main Street board in Water Valley, served on the Mississippi Main Street board of directors, and is currently a city alderman.
The trailblazer award, officially known as the Paul Coggin Trailblazer Award, is presented annually to an outstanding local board member or volunteer who has been active in a downtown organization for a significant period of time, and who has contributed energy and dedication to downtown revitalization.
“It is amazing what folks can accomplish in a small town when everyone pools the skills and resources they have. Water Valley’s story is just that, and I am proud to be a part of the ongoing effort,” Coughlin told the Herald.