Images of Proposed New Building Made Available; Parking Plan Unclear

Tuesday, August 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
By: 
Alice Dreger

Above: the proposed project as seen from the southeast, with Grand River Avenue in the foreground and Abbot Road to the right.

East Lansing residents can now get a look at what the new owners of the blighted properties just east of Peoples Church are hoping to build. The images shown above and below have just been released by the City’s Planning department.

According to Lori Mullins, the City’s Community and Economic Development Administrator, further details about the project proposal are not available at this time but are expected to be received by the City by about September 15. At that point, Mullins says, we should know more about how parking would work, and who the developer is expecting to pay for that parking—the developer, the City, or both.

As Chris Root reported for ELi’s readers last week, and as the new images confirm, the building plans are expected to call for a multi-height building at the northwest corner of Grand River Avenue and Abbot Road. At the main corner would be a public plaza which the developer has described to ELi as being “a civic gesture” that would open up the corner and make it a lively urban space. To the north and west, the building would rise to 12 stories, as shown in the drawings.

The lower levels are expected to house retail space, including possibly a grocery store, plus a hotel with 150 guest rooms. The upper levels would house apartments. The developer has previously indicated they expect on-site parking for hotel guests but off-site parking for others using the building. The assumption among those talking about this project has been that this means construction of a parking garage nearby, probably along Evergreen Avenue west of Dublin Square.

City ordinances no longer suggest the City is responsible for providing parking for this type of large downtown development, but the City has sometimes assisted financially with parking. Under the last City Council with Nathan Triplett as mayor, the project at 300 Grand (now being completed just west of the original Biggby Coffee) was granted $1.9 million in tax increment financing (TIF) to build private underground parking for that building’s tenants. That came as the result of a contentious 3-2 vote.

The current City Council, with Mark Meadows as mayor, voted unanimously to limit the latest development TIF plan, for White Oak Place, to environmental clean-up of an old gas station site. That $3.2 million TIF effectively pushed the cost of parking onto the developer. The current City Council also recently voted unanimously to take out a $6 million bond to pay for major repairs to the City-owned parking garage under the downtown Marriott Hotel.

The City’s parking system consistently loses money, and experts suggest another parking garage would likely contribute to municipal budgetary shortfalls. Nevertheless, City planners have indicated for years that redevelopment of the west side of downtown will require some kind of major parking provision.

The project as it is being proposed for the major corner will require at least some legal and financial dealmaking with the City and the East Lansing Downtown Development Authority (DDA). As shown in the submitted drawings, the proposed building area for the corner project at Abbot Road and Grand River Avenue would subsume the southern end of Evergreen Avenue, which currently meets Grand River Avenue. The City of East Lansing would have to forfeit that public street land to the developer. (The following image shows the site as it currently exists; the orange and white construction baricade shows where Evergreen Avenue now ends, at Grand River Avenue between the commercial properties.)

Meanwhile, the DDA is expected to sell the developer at least part of the property it owns at 303 Abbot Road for this redevelopment project. The “little bank building” at 303 Abbot Road recently was demolished in anticipation of redevelopment of the area.

Chris Root reported for us last week that the developer is seeking from City Council an extension on the deadline for demolishing the vacated “big bank building” at the corner and the commercial buildings between that and Peoples Church. The developer says a major State of Michigan tax credit requires having the buildings standing until various approvals are in place. Those buildings were supposed to be demolished by the end of this year.

The City’s Planning webpage on the Park District seems to assume Council will grant that demolition extension, saying, “The properties fronting Grand River Avenue, between Abbot Road and Peoples Church, will be demolished as soon as possible, pending approval of a site plan and amended incentive agreements from the State.”

For a follow-up to this story, click here.

 

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