New Project to Reflect Broad Museum, Seek TIF

Wednesday, July 8, 2015, 2:41 pm
By: 
Alice Dreger

Image: Architect’s rendering of the plan for 565 East Grand River

Council last night considered plans for a new downtown development that aims architecturally to reflect the Broad Museum, which stands kitty-corner to the site. The developer told Council last night he plans to seek Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and said he wants to know more about what Councilmembers want in the project before he proceeds.

The site is at 565 East Grand River Avenue, at the corner of Bailey Street where the vacant old Taco Bell building stands, just east of Moosejaw.  The development company, Stonehouse Village VI, LLC, was represented last night by owner David Krause, who came to Council to say he was very proud of the building and felt the design, by the architecture firm Studio Intrigue, is “spectacular.”

The plan calls for a five-story building with about 5,000-6,000 square feet of commercial space taking up all of the first floor. Above would be rental apartments ranging from one- to four-bedrooms. Krause has obtained leftover steel and glass from the Broad Museum, with the intent of using them as architectural elements in the new building. He told Council the project will not happen without tax incentives being approved by Council.

City Planning staff Darcy Schmitt told Council, “Staff feels this would be a wonderful addition to the downtown.” Staff has encouraged Krause to come up with a plan that takes over the third lane of Bailey Street to allow the site to include outdoor dining space. Schmitt told Councilmembers she wanted them to help Krause rework the plan in anticipation of his request for tax increment financing. Schmitt also said the outdoor plan will be an important part of the brownfield TIF plan for the project.

Councilmember Ruth Beier told Krause she was “not willing to trade tax revenue for a plaza on that corner.” Asked by Krause to explain, she said that the City needs tax revenue, especially when it is closing the Bailey daycare center and turning over Scene Metrospace because of inadequate revenues. Beier told Krause, “We can’t give away tax revenue for a nice plaza. . . . We will run out of general fund money in 15 years.” She said she was willing to consider a short-term TIF plan, and Krause said he was amenable to a short plan.

Councilmember Kathy Boyle praised the design but asked if Krause could consider, instead of aiming the building at student renters, designing the building to appeal also to empty-nesters and young professionals. She suggested designing apartments with good disability access and perhaps having a strict rule about keeping noise to a minimum. Boyle also agreed with Beier that tax revenues are needed to deal with the City’s growing debt. Krause said he would consider Boyle’s suggestions but that he had to think about financial realities of the market.

During the public hearing, besides Krause, I was the only person to offer comment. I said I thought the design was architecturally admirable, that Krause has a good reputation in town, and that that corner needs development. I also said that we can’t keep giving away tax revenues when the city is facing a $200 million debt, and I noted that Mayor Nathan Triplett received a contribution from Mr. Krause during his last campaign. (See our weekly Council Capsule, forthcoming shortly, for more on the discussion last night regarding campaign contributions.)

Council deferred action on this project until August 4, when Krause is expected to have more details on the plan.

 

Reminder: You can communicate with Council in person at its weekly meetings or write to Council directly at council@cityofeastlansing.com. You can speak or write on any issue involving the City, not only what is on the published agenda.