Developers to Present Proposals for Evergreen Properties, Have Them Scored

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Tuesday, March 3, 2020, 9:00 am
Alice Dreger

Above: Renderings from the two proposals; learn more here.

The two sets of developers interested in buying and redeveloping the East Lansing Downtown Development Authority’s “Evergreen Properties” will present their ideas and answer questions on Thursday, March 19, at a meeting scheduled to start at noon at City Hall.

According to the City’s website, at that meeting the developers will answer questions from the DDA and special Review Committee being convened to review the proposals.

The Review Committee “will then reconvene for a second public meeting to deliberate,” score the proposals, and provide those scores to the DDA, which is expected to then make a recommendation to the City Council.

The announcement does not indicate whether members of the general public will have the opportunity to make comments or ask questions at the open meetings.

As ELi has reported, only two developers have come forward with proposals in response to the open call for pitches. Convexity Properties has proposed a market-rate housing complex and expansion of Valley Court Park, while River Caddis has proposed a large new office building.

The properties run from 314-344 Evergreen Avenue, just north of Peoples Church. They are owned by the DDA, so the DDA and City Council must agree to move forward on a contract with a developer.

The pressure is on because the DDA owes about $5.4 million on the properties and the payments due are set to become steadily larger.

Almost a year was spent on trying to come to a deal with developers Royal Properties/Vlahakis Development for their “Park Place” concept for the properties. The Royal Vlahakis pitch was unanimously rejected by City Council last October.

Because of delays in moving toward redevelopment of these properties, the City has been looking at managing the needed sewer upgrade in the areas independently of the DDA property redevelopment.

During the time the DDA extended and re-extended the deal with Royal Vlahakis, the DDA held off on issuing an open call to all developers interested in the process.

An open Request for Qualifications and Proposals (RFQP) finally went out late last year, and last month, a 3-2 majority of Council voted to take the properties out of the Oakwood Historic District in the interest of making sale and redevelopment easier.

In years past, the DDA has tended to follow the will of the City Council on redevelopment projects, with some DDA members saying that made sense because the Council is direct-elected by the people while the DDA is appointed by Council.

But in more recent times, particularly with the Royal Vlahakis proposal, DDA members have sometimes clashed with Council members over the question of what to do with the Evergreen Properties, leading the DDA and Council to hold an unusual joint meeting about the properties in November.

Any site plan proposal for these properties would have to go through the usual review and approval channels, including undergoing review by such groups as the East Lansing Planning Commission and Transportation Commission.

But before all that, the DDA and City Council would come to basic agreement terms with a prospective developer in a formal development agreement.

Membership of the special review committee has not yet been announced. According to the released RFQP, the project scoring criteria to be used for the two developers’ qualifications and proposals are as follows:

  • “Experience in completing projects of the complexity and significance of what is envisioned for this site” (20 points);
  • “Financial capacity and track record of key personnel and development entity. Access to sufficient capital to complete the project as conceptually proposed, as well as reasonable estimates of project costs and sources and uses of funds” (20 points);
  • “Proposal clearly integrates the stated preferences of the community, including a ‘micro-urban’ vision for the properties, including uses such as innovative office environments, chef-driven cuisine, and other amenities that help attract a broad [word missing]” (20 points);
  • “Demonstration of a significant public benefits [sic] including, but not limited to: a sustainable plan to bring new retail and/or office businesses into the project, aligned with the stated preferences of the community” (20 points);
  • “Provides a plan to upgrade critical public infrastructure, including green space, streetscaping and plaza spaces” (20 points).

It is not clear from the process planned how “the stated preferences of the community” will be determined.

You can read about the proposals and find links to the full proposals here. Written comments on the proposals and process can be communicated to the DDA via the Director of Planning, Tom Fehrenbach. (Be clear that you want your message shared with the DDA and review committee, if that is your intent.) © 2013-2020 East Lansing Info