Albert Avenue Will Look Different When It Reopens in August

Friday, May 10, 2019, 9:30 am
By: 
Brad Minor

Harbor Bay Real Estate, the lead developer behind the $132 million City Center District public-private partnership, submitted a revised streetscape plan for Albert Avenue that was approved by East Lansing’s City Council on Tuesday.

ELi reported last month that Harbor Bay had asked to build something other than what it originally proposed for the streetscapes of Albert Avenue and Grand River Avenue. We also reported that what Council was asked to approve for the Grand River Avenue side on April 16 had, in fact, already been partially constructed before Council was asked to approve changes.

The proposed revision for the project’s Albert Avenue side came to Council this week. According to Council Member Aaron Stephens, one of the central reasons Harbor Bay submitted a revised plan is that businesses set to operate along the new retail space on Albert Avenue were concerned that large portions of the sidewalk would be covered with paver bricks.

Two of the businesses, Barrio Tacos and Jolly Pumpkin, are restaurants that want to be able to have outdoor, patio-style seating where alcohol will be served. That requires fencing with posts secured by drilling into the ground. A third business, Foster Coffee, may also want outdoor seating, and outdoor seating often involves furniture secured by drilling into the ground.

While this isn't an issue for a surface like concrete, pavers tend to crack when drilled and can also become uprooted more easily than concrete.

The revised plan has taken out many of the pavers along the sidewalk of Albert Avenue. The approved plans showed this design for the sidewalk:

The new design is simplified, showing plain concrete for most of the space (shown below as squares) with pavers used only close to the street. The yellow and aqua colors show the use of two colors of paving bricks, which according to Director of Planning Tim Dempsey will be brown and red, clay-fired and not dyed concrete.

No renderings were provided at Council. For a larger, clearer version of the revised site plan, click here.

“Originally Harbor Bay Development wanted to come in and remove all the pavers and just do poured concrete,” Stephens told ELi in an interview after Tuesday’s meeting. “But we felt like the pavers did add an artistic look to the streetscape, so I’m really glad that Council was able to get them to keep some of them.”

We reported last month that the design for the enclosed pedestrian walkway from Albert Avenue to the alley behind the Target store has also changed, as has the plan for the alleyway design. In both cases, more elaborate designs have been simplified and made less expensive in terms of construction (the developer’s cost) and upkeep (the City’s).

Stephens said this week that it was important to him that the planters and the public space that Harbor Bay Development had initially proposed for Albert Avenue be kept in the revised plans, which they are. The drawing above shows circles with rectangles enclosed where planters will be set up. The large planters will have benches on all sides of them except the one facing the street.

Paving brick will also be used at the exit of the parking ramp and on the pedestrian crosswalks that go across Albert Avenue near the Grove Street intersection. Those were conditions of approval, and cannot be changed in design without going back to Planning Commission.

“The plan is basically mimicking what they proposed on Grand River [Avenue], with concrete sidewalks up until a decorative brick band just behind the rolled curb,” Dempsey told Council at Tuesday’s meeting.

“You mentioned a rolled curb; I thought there was going to be no curb?” Mayor Pro Tem Erik Altmann asked. (The original plan called for Albert Avenue to be designed as a woonerf.)

“Well, technically it's no curb but there still needs to be a gutter pan for drainage so it’s inverted,” Dempsey answered.

The revised streetscape will have more bike racks than the original plans showed.

“That was really important to me when we were having the discussion-only meeting, that there was an increase [in bike racks] from their previous plan,” Stephens said.

“The thing we’re going to have to look at here is with the anchoring issues, because it's harder to mount things to the pavers than to concrete. So we might have to move the bike racks, but keep the number the same,” Dempsey answered.

Mayor Mark Meadows asked Dempsey, “When do we expect to see this part of the project begin?”

“They’re planning to get underway potentially by the end of the month, depending on feedback this evening,” Dempsey responded. “The hope is that we have the street open mid-August. That's the target date.”

Before Council voted on the revisions to the streetscape, Councilmember Shanna Draheim noted the importance of this area to the city.

“I think this is a level of detail that the Council wouldn't normally get into, but [given] the magnitude of this project and the uniqueness of this particular street and streetscape,” it makes sense for Council to be involved, according to Draheim. “So, for people who follow planning issues, that's the reason we're getting down in the weeds here.”

“I think this looks good, almost better than the original,” Altmann concluded about the design.

“I agree completely,” said Meadows. “This actually is a better way for us to approach a streetscape.”

Council voted 5-0 to approve the revised streetscape plan.

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