Blighted Corner Redevelopment Begins With More Closures

Friday, December 28, 2018, 1:56 am
By: 
Alice Dreger

Redevelopment on the long-blighted corner where Abbot Road meets Grand River Avenue is beginning this week, and that means more road and sidewalk closures ahead for a busy section of East Lansing’s downtown.

The City of East Lansing’s press release on the start of the Park District construction calls what’s happening now “mobilization.” In plain English, this means that there are now sidewalk closures around the construction sites, and that Evergreen Avenue is closed between Albert Avenue and Grand River Avenue, as shown above.

The City warns that, next summer, Albert Avenue west of Abbot Road will also be closed as Albert Avenue is realigned to go straight across Abbot Road. The project also involves moving a major trunk line owned by BWL. This is a line that brings electricity to much of downtown East Lansing, so moving it will represent a major undertaking.

Developers DRW/Convexity will be constructing a 140-foot-tall building at the main corner. That's the same height that Tha Landmark will be, the building now under construction about a block away on Grand River Avenue, as part of the Center City District project.

The ground floor of the corner building of DRW/Convexity's "Park District" project will include about 14,000 square feet of retail space and some public plaza space out at the corner. There will be two floors of private indoor parking above that (designed to be largely invisible from the street) and ten stories of rental apartments above that.

City Planning staff commmunications call this an 11-story building with two levels of parking. East Lansing’s zoning code doesn’t call this building "13 stories" becuase the code doesn't count parking levels as “stories." (They are shorter than typical floors in a building.)

Just west of the corner DRW/Convexity building, across Evergreen Avenue and in the direction of Peoples Church, the developers will construct a 10-story, 120-foot-tall hotel, to be operated by The Graduate chain. Construction on that building will lag slightly behind the main-corner building.

Below: Developers' rendering showing the hotel to the left and the corner building to the right along Grand River Avenue. Evergreen Avenue is between the two buildings, and Peoples Church would be to the left of the hotel.

That building has no parking designed in. The plan is for the hotel to use all-valet parking through the use of City-owned parking lots and ramps.

For now, the developers will use empty land they own at 341 Evergreen Avenue as a staging site, but eventually that property will hold a building with one level of indoor parking and four levels of rental apartments for people with incomes that are considered "moderate" for the area. Applications for those income-restricted apartments will require special income verification that rules out rental by students who are dependent on their parents.

The project is being funded in part through tax incentives, including about $10 million in Michigan Business Tax credits and a tax increment financing (TIF) plan that comes to a total of about $7.9 million. The TIF plan is designed to run about nine years, after which all new taxes will flow to the normal taxing authorities.

Most of the TIF plan is being used to pay for public infrastructure, including rebuilding of water mains, sewers, and roads in the area. About $1.9 million in City property taxes will be used for the TIF.

David Pierson, attorney for the developers, has estimated that the City of East Lansing will see about $19 million in new revenue from this project over 30 years in the form of real estate taxes, “personal property taxes” (which are really taxes on businesses), the City’s new income tax, and utility connection charges.

The project is expected to cause additional stress on already-stressed businesses downtown, as more roads and sidewalks are closed. At its most recent meeting, City Council voted through more parking vouchers for downtown businesses in an attempt to help them attract customers.

 

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