Center City Construction Area May Get Bigger

Tuesday, June 12, 2018, 7:27 am
Alice Dreger

Above: Construction for the Center City District project along Grand River Avenue.

The contractor for the Center City District project downtown is now looking to expand the construction zone across Abbot Road. East Lansing’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is set to hold a special meeting midday tomorrow to review and possibly approve the proposal.

The $132 million Center City District project, stretching from Grand River Avenue to Albert Avenue, is expected to be completed in late 2019. In the meantime, it is resulting in lane closures, road closures, and car and pedestrian detours in a key section of downtown. The developers for the project are Harbor Bay Real Estate and the local Ballein Management company. Christman Company is the lead contractor.

The original construction staging plan called for work to be contained on the site of the project itself. But now the contractor wants more room for work and is looking to use 303 Abbot Road, at the southwest corner of Abbot Road and Albert Avenue, for more space for construction materials and vehicles to be moved on and off.

Map of the area from Google Maps

The property at 303 Abbot Road is owned by the East Lansing DDA, a public entity, and has been slated to be part of the Park District project, a separate project expected to move forward soon.

The DDA bought this property back in 2001 from Ballein Management, now the co-developer of the Center City District project. The DDA paid Ballein Management $700,000 for the property, buying it in order to help with the failed City Center II project. The commercial building at the property was demolished in July 2016 at a cost of $200,000 in public funds. The asssessed value of the property today is listed as "$0."

If the DDA approves the proposed temporary use of 303 Abbot Road, which is currently an empty grassy lot (shown below), this will mean extending the Center City construction site across Abbot Road. The draft contract on the deal calls for Christman Company to pay the DDA $1,500 a month for this use.

The agenda for tomorrow’s DDA meeting was posted yesterday. Today, ELi was provided a copy of the draft contract by DDA Vice Chair Doug Jester. 

The City’s Director of Planning, Tim Dempsey, responded in late May to a series of questions from ELi about this move to add 303 Abbot Road to the construction zone, and based on those answers and the draft contract, we can provide some details about what is proposed and why.

Asked why the developers are not sticking to the original staging plan, Dempsey responded, “There is significant amount of material moving onto the site on a regular basis, so an additional staging area will ease congestion and equipment movement on site. They can manage without, but it would ease some space pressure.”

As noted above, the contract calls for Christman Company to pay the DDA $1,500 per month for this use, and to also pay for putting up a fence around the property, and gravel on the surface.

What about liability? That will be the contractor’s responsibility, according to Dempsey: “We will require a license agreement spelling out terms of use, including indemnification and insurance provisions.” The contract specifies what is required in that regard.

Could it delay construction of the Park District project, assuming that that project materializes at some point? No, said Dempsey, because the contract will “provide a termination clause with 30 days’ notice, so we could avoid any potential conflict with the Park District.” The contract actually calls for a 50-day lead time, with 30 days' notice plus another 20 days to clean up.

The City has been sending out regular updates on construction of the Center City District project, often indicating that work hours are being extended into early mornings, late evenings, and weekends, as the contractor tries to meet deadlines. Today’s work hours at the site have been extended from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The DDA will meet starting at 12:45 p.m. in Conference Room A on the second floor of City Hall. Members of the public will have an opportunity to comment before the matter of extending the construction site is discussed and voted on.

Note: This article was updated at 9 a.m., after publication, upon receiving the draft contract. We added a link to the contract and provided some information about the details contained therein.


You may also be interested in:

ELi's Voter Guide to the Income Tax Proposal

The Pickle in the Park District

Center City Construction Continues, Changng Downtown

ELi's report on the demolition of 303 Abbot Road
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