Note: This article was written before the project was thrown into disarray by actions of the prior developer; read more.
The Park District redevelopment project is planned for a multi-acre area at the northwest corner of Abbot Road and Grand River Avenue. The private properties that are included in the plan were obtained by Chicago-based DRW in 2016, and DRW/Convexity are functioning as the developers.
A timeline on the project appears below. The project involves the land of the long-vacant and blighted commercial buildings on Grand River Avenue between Peoples Church and Abbot Road, now owned by the developer, as well as other properties owned by the developer, properties owned the City of East Lansing, and properties owned by the East Lansing Downtown Development Authority (DDA). This map shows the redevelopment area.
You can click here to see a larger, clearer version of this map.
This photo shows the series of vacant commercial buildings along Grand River Avenue that would be demolished to construct “Building A" (everything to the right of Peoples Church):
If constructed as planned, “Building A” will be a 13-story building along Grand River Avenue that will span the length from Abbot Road west to Peoples Church’s Memorial Garden. It will subsume the section of Evergreen Avenue that currently exists in the space between the vacant commercial buildings owned by DRW. A rendering provided by the developer portrays Building A as this:
This building is planned to house: The Graduate hotel with 150 guest rooms, private meeting space, and a ballroom; ground-floor retail space; 197 market-rate rental apartments; and two floors of fully-screened private parking (on levels 2 and 3). A public plaza will be constructed on the northwest corner of Abbot Road and Grand River Avenue.
If built as planned, north of this area, near the east end of Valley Court Park, at 341 Evergreen Avenue, the developer will construct a new 7-story condo building with 66 owner-occupied apartments and on-site private garage space for 68 cars. This is called “Building C” in the plans, and the developer has rendered it this way:
As part of the project, Albert Avenue will be straightened and will meet Valley Court Drive near Delta Street. Various parking lots will be reconfigured, and four older DDA-owned rental houses will be razed and turned into surface parking. These are the rental houses that will be razed:
The portion of Evergreen Avenue that now exists between 341 Evergreen Avenue and the rental houses will be turned into a walk/bike path.
Here is the timeline of the redevelopment project, from newest to oldest events:
- October 7, 2017: Demolition of the buildings scheduled to start.
- September 28, 2017: We report on upcoming demolition and what will happen after that. Read more.
- September 21, 2017: We report that the Park District redevelopment plan is officiall dead. Read more.
- September 19, 2017: We report that City Council is trying to get the State to make a decision to save or kill the project. Read more.
- September 19, 2017: We report that City Council was attempting one last shot at saving the Park District redevelopment plans. Read more.
- September 16, 2017: We report that former developer Scott Chappelle has effectively killed the redevelopment project by convincing state-level authorities that he may still have some rights to future tax credits on the properties he lost to foreclosure. Read more.
- September 11, 2017: The Mayor expresses frustration that the MEDC won't seem to make a clear decision on moving forward with the Park District state-level tax incentives. Read more.
- August 31, 2017: The MEDC suggests the state-level tax incentives may yet happen, despite threats from former developer Scott Chappelle about legal actions he might pursue. Read more.
- August 24, 2017: A public relations firm is hired to try to help downtown businesses survive two major redevelopment projects, including this one. Read more.
- August 16, 2017: We learn that the state-level agency that has to approve the $10 million credit will not consider the project until at least September, delaying demolition. Read more.
- August 2017: Asbestos abatement ongoing at the "big bank building."
- July 27, 2017: At a special meeting of City Council, the prior developer tries to make a legal maneuver to claim some rights in this redevelopment project. Read more.
- June 22, 2017: City staff admit a major mistake on the project, delaying demolition of the vacant properties and potentially jeopardizing the deal. Read more.
- June 22, 2017: East Lansing Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (BRA) approve the revised development agreement.
- June 6, 2017: City Council takes up the revised development agreement and approves it in a 4-0 vote.
- June 1, 2017: DDA discusses the development agreement; recommends changes.
- May 30, 2017: ELi reports on the development agreement going to Council.
- April 25, 2017: In a 5-0 vote, City Council approves a site plan and $19.4 million tax-increment financing (TIF) plan acceptable to the developer. Council also approves a Memorandum of Understanding about the main elements of the development agreement.
- April 20, 2017: BRA approves a revised TIF plan for the project, one that is acceptable to the developer.
- April 12, 2017: East Lansing’s Planning Commission unanimously recommends DRW/Convexity’s site plan.
- March 22, 2017: DRW/Convexity present revised site plan, including for The Graduate Hotel.
- March 7, 2017: MSU says it won’t be part of major downtown developments.
- February 23, 2017: ELi produces a major report showing how the Park District and Center City District plans have been treated differently.
- February 6, 2017: ELi explains “the Evergreen problem in the Park District” and how it has affected attempts to redevelop the Park District.
- March 31, 2017: City Council votes 4-1 to let the vacant buildings remain longer, at the developer’s request.
- January 27, 2017: MSU says it may move to be a part of the Park District redevelopment.
- January 26, 2017: ELi reports Convexity’s plan to “significantly change” the site plan.
- January 23, 2017: The developers provide ELi a statement explaining their dissatisfaction with the City’s handling of their project.
- January 10, 2017: City Council approves a TIF plan that the developers call unworkable in a 4-1 vote. The deal falls apart as a consequence.
- January 5, 2017: In an apparently unprecedented move, the BRA votes through a shell of a TIF plan on the project, suggesting Council can work out the details.
- December 12, 2016: Council agrees to extend the demolition deadline after tense discussion.
- December 1, 2016: ELi reports that the developer has changed the site plans in response to concerns raised by Peoples Church, the Oakwood Neighborhood, and the Planning Commission.
- November 2016: City Council amends Ordinance 1384 to reduce the requirement for non-student-rental housing in big downtown developments from 50% of units to 25%. This impacts Convexity’s site plan by reducing how much non-student-housing it must include.
- October 21, 2016: The developer recommends a $34 million TIF deal.
- October 12, 2016: Planning Commission reviews the new site plan.
- August 31, 2016: The LSJ incorrectly reports that the developer has withdrawn the proposal in response to Ordinance 1384, which at the time required big downtown developments have at least 50% of residential units be aimed at someone other than student renters. We correct the LSJ story.
- August 25, 2016: The DDA hears plans for the Park District.
- August 16, 2016: ELi talks to the developer and finds out what may be in the works.
- July 2016: The vacant, DDA-owned building at 303 Abbot Road is demolished.
- July 2016: The developer demolishes the vacant Evergreen Arms apartments at 341-345 Evergreen Avenue.
- February 5, 2016: Ingham County Court clears the way for DRW to take over the foreclosed properties without major legal encumbrances.
- January 2016: The deeds on the vacant, blighted properties change hands.
East Lansing Info (ELi) has been steadily covering this redevelopment proposal. You can find our comprehensive, ongoing coverage by clicking here. The timeline above will be updated, so you can always check back to this page to see what’s new about this development.