City Names Tom Fehrenbach as New Head of Planning, Building, and Development

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Tuesday, September 17, 2019, 4:41 pm
Alice Dreger

Tom Fehrenbach at East Lansing's Planning Commission on July 24. (Photo by Raymond Holt)

Tom Fehrenbach has been named to replace Tim Dempsey as the Director of East Lansing’s Department of Planning, Building & Development.

Peter Dewan, who serves as Chair of both the East Lansing Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (BRA), tells ELi he is “thrilled” at the news.

“I respect Tom’s ability to monitor multiple projects and provide critical analysis to the City Council, the Downtown Development Authority and the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority on a whole host of issues and economic development activity impacting the City,” said Dewan. “Tom is a seasoned professional and I look forward to his continued leadership and contributions to East Lansing citizens in his new role. Our community will be the beneficiary of Tom’s vision and service.”

Asked for a comment to help ELi readers get an inside look at this promotion, Chris Root, who regularly reports for ELi on economic development issues, said, “Watching [Tom] Fehrenbach staff the DDA and BRA, I have been struck that he is well-prepared and is able to summarize complex information – sometimes even explaining a recent development without written notes. He is thoroughly professional, answering a specific question or providing useful context without displaying emotions.”

Fehrenbach has the reputation of being very responsive not only to developers and business owners, but to ordinary citizens and reporters who contact him with questions.

Tim Dempsey left the City at the end of July to work for Public Sector Consultants, a private firm that provides external consultancy to governments around the state of Michigan.

Since then, Annette Irwin has been serving as interim director. The City’s announcement of the new appointment indicated that Irwin was not interested in the permanent job.

Irwin has been serving as the head of Rental Housing and University Relations, one of five divisions that will now fall under Fehrenbach’s direction. The other four are Buildings & Permits; Community & Economic Development; Parking; and Planning & Zoning.

Fehrenbach has been working for the City since 2017 as Community & Economic Development Administrator. In that job, his work has included extensive management of major economic development projects, including the City’s Economic Development Plan and the agreement with developers Royal Apartments and Vlahakis Development for the DDA’s Evergreen Avenue properties.

Fehrenbach has also worked on the major developments at Core Spaces’ The Hub, Harbor Bay/Ballein Management's Center City District project, and DRW Convexity's Park District redevelopment.

According to the City’s press release on the appointment, “Fehrenbach is a graduate of Michigan State University and holds a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies in Social Science from the MSU College of Social Sciences. He is a current member of the East Lansing Kiwanis Club.”

Fehrenbach gained prior professional experience in Oakland County, Mich., and Palo Alto, Calif., and he has also worked in the private sector. He lives in East Lansing with his spouse and three children.

City Manager George Lahanas praised Fehrenbach in the announcement:

“Tom’s time at the City as the Community & Economic Development Administrator and his previous work in development in Michigan and California have well-prepared him to take on this new role. Tom’s work ethic, leadership and positive outlook are strong assets that will help him drive continued progress in the East Lansing Department of Planning, Building & Development and the City as a whole.” © 2013-2020 East Lansing Info