The Center City Project Alley Redo: Renderings Versus Reality

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Tuesday, June 4, 2019, 12:07 pm
Andrew Graham

Inside Mackerel Sky, a contemporary craft gallery and East Lansing institution, the customer usually finds a tranquil scene. Mobiles hang from the ceiling, sculptures and ceramics pack the shelves, and in the back, one finds calming candles and baby gifts.

But these days, the peaceful scene is drowned out by the sound of diesel and development as major redevelopment projects have taken over downtown.

The City alley bordering Mackerel Sky, running parallel to Albert and Grand River Avenues between M.A.C. Avenue and Abbot Road, is being torn up in order for construction crews to access the water main.

For years, the alley was understood as a major thoroughfare for foot traffic. It was consequently constructed with pavers, adding an inviting wave-like design to the middle of the path. Along the way, there were planters, trees, benches, and art, along with outdoor dining spaces.

Now the alley is set to become the main venue for deliveries and trash pickups for the new Target store. When the alley is fully repaved, the old pedestrian-welcoming aesthetic won’t be replicated, contrary to what the renderings from Harbor Bay and Ballein Management showed when the project was approved (below).

This is much to the displeasure of Mackerel Sky owner Linda Dufelmeier.

On May 28, Dufelmeier posted from the Mackerel Sky Facebook page, noting the beginning of the destruction of the current pavers and voicing displeasure with the decision to change plans.

“Unfortunately the City of East Lansing has allowed the developer to eliminate brick from the paving areas in the alley, on Grand River, and along Albert Street citing difficulty in maintaining pavers, and difficulty with snow removal,” the post read.

As ELi reported, at a City Council meeting in April, the Center City developers were given the go-ahead to install plain concrete in the alley.

The reason given for the change was frequent truck traffic once the project starts.

But for years, besides being a pedestrian space, the alley was also a conduit for large truck deliveries for the stores along Grand River Avenue.

Dufelmeier noted in the Facebook post, “the winding path of brick pavers that have withstood the tons and tons of materials rolling over it in the past two years” and were generally in better condition than the surrounding concrete.

“It’s been there for years,” Dufelmeier said on Friday, glancing out at the bulldozers and trucks in the now-dirt alley.

Another part of the original alleyway plan for the Harbor Bay-Ballein Management Center City project included greenery, with vines growing on the alley walls, along with other fixtures to beautify the alley.

This is what the scene looked like today, looking east toward M.A.C. Below that is the rendering of the alley looking east, before the changes to the plans were approved.

With the nixing of the pavers, Dufelmeier doubts she’ll see any of the pedestrian-welcoming elements, including the ivy-covered walls, come to fruition.

Mostly, she’s frustrated with the changes to the alley plans for reasons she called “fallacious.”

“So disappointing that the standard for beautifying the downtown and making it more pedestrian friendly is being put on the back burner,” the Facebook posted ended. © 2013-2020 East Lansing Info