The Hub’s Developer Proposes to Build Much More Student Housing on Bogue Street

Friday, August 30, 2019, 8:00 am
By: 
Alice Dreger

Above: Rendering showing what Core Spaces wants to construct along Bogue Street, looking southeast, with the recently opened Hub building shown at the far left.

With the completion and opening of the 10-story “Hub” building at the corner of Bogue Street and Grand River Avenue, national student housing developer Core Spaces is petitioning East Lansing’s government to allow it to build two more buildings, bigger and taller than the first.

If constructed as proposed, these two new buildings would add another 720 student apartment units and up to 1,735 more residents along Bogue Street just south of Grand River Avenue.

Core Campus obtained an agreement with Jeffrey Wells, owner of several rental properties along Bogue Street, to propose “Hub 2” for the properties at 131, 135, 207, 217, and 227 Bogue Street, covering a total of about 1.7 acres. This would involve demolishing four 2-story apartment buildings plus one 2-story fraternity.

Core was unable to obtain a contract for the property housing the Farmhouse Fraternity at 151 Bogue Street, so the two proposed towers would bookend that frat house.

Below: The Hub when it was under construction, with Farmhouse Fraternity in the foreground.

Above: Rendering looking northeast, with the Farmhouse Fraternity rendered as a white box between the proposed new buildings.

ELi obtained the new proposal application from the City of East Lansing through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and yesterday the developers provided ELi with renderings to show in 3-D what it is they are looking to construct.

The designs show two 14-story buildings that, according to City regulations, are 152 feet tall, but with amenity penthouses and mechanicals would actually rise to over 170 feet tall.

Below: A rendering looking of the proposed south building, looking southeast, with the Farmhouse Fraternity as a white box to the left.

Core Spaces has designed the two new buildings to include 114 studio apartments, 162 one-bedroom apartments, 241 two-bedrooms, 59 three-bedrooms, and 144 four-bedrooms, plus amenities, totaling almost 600,000 square feet of “residential programming.” (Right now, the code doesn’t allow for four-bedroom units.)

The two new buildings would also have internal parking for 400 vehicles, accessible from the back of the buildings, plus stalls for parking 880 bicycles.

The developers say that the “target market for tenants will be MSU students on 12-month leases.” As with the first Hub building, which rented out fast, the new buildings would include amenities that would be student-centered and created to enhance “relaxation for the busy and often stressed student residents.” Each building would have a rooftop pool, hot tub, and grilling stations.

“The rooftop amenities have been located at a sufficient distance from the rooftop parapet as a safeguard for both the residents and the surrounding properties,” says Core. “Parapet heights at the roof will be a minimum of 60” as an additional security measure.” This design seems to anticipate that some residents might want to throw things from the roof.

The design also calls for “elegant 2-story rowhouses” along the first floor, with residents of those ground-floor apartments entering their units directly from the street. Residents for the third floor and above would enter through a “grand 1st floor entry.”

Below: The proposed building on the north side, seen from the northwest.

According to the project narrative, “The buildings are designed with the surroundings in mind, embracing a collegiate theme reminiscent of MSU’s architecture that is intended to give it a contextual fit to its position in the community. The buildings’ footprints and setbacks were designed to provide for wide sidewalks which reinforce comfortable pedestrian and bicycle movement along Bogue Street and easy access to MSU.”

Project would require a number of zoning code changes

Those 14-foot sidewalks are not designed to be as wide as City staff says they should be (20 feet). Indeed, the existing zoning code for this area, known as the East Village, would have to be amended in several places for this project to be permitted as proposed, including for the buildings’ height, the four-bedroom units, and the reduced setbacks.

Below: A view of the proposed south building from the street.

At Planning Commission on Wednesday night, Core Spaces’ attorney David Pierson tried to convince the Commission to recommend the needed changes to City Council, but the Commission voted to recommend only a few of the zoning changes envisioned by the project, limiting themselves to what City staff recommended.

Planning Commission has been charged with trying to develop a draft form-based code for the downtown area including the East Village, and several Commissioners expressed reluctance at changing the East Village code for this latest Hub proposal when a new code may be instituted within a few months.

Pierson told Planning Commission that much of what was designed into the new Hub proposal is reflective of what’s in the draft of the form-based code. He and the rest of the Core Spaces team are concerned that the form-based code probably won’t be finalized until at least early next year, based on staff’s revised timelines for that work.

Below: A view of the proposed north building from the street with the existing Hub to the left.

Reached by email for comment on this yesterday, Pierson wrote, “Although the Planning Commission did not recommend that City Council approve all of the requested amendments, Core plans to present the site plan for redevelopment on Bogue St. We think the proposal will help make clear why the amendments to the East Village zoning should be approved. It should also provide a good basis for comparison with the proposed form based code.”

Pierson has been plugging this project as a winner for East Lansing, as he did with the first Hub proposal. Like Hub-1, Hub-2 asks for no tax increment financing (TIF), which means if built, it will immediately start paying hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in property taxes to the City and other local taxing authorities. The area does not border neighborhoods with single-family owner-occupied housing, avoiding social conflicts often of concern to Council. And it puts students right on campus, reducing car traffic (at least in theory).

Pierson also points out that the development of more new student housing means more good options for student renters. The ongoing boom in student housing in East Lansing will likely result, in the aggregate, in landlords having to reduce prices and improve properties as students have more choices and therefore more economic power in the local rental scene.

But some are concerned that the boom may result in vacancies in other areas of the city, with unpredictable results. Some have also raised the concern that falling rents in older rental stock will mean the net gain in property taxes for the City will not be as high as looking at a large new single project like The Hub would suggest.

Below: A rendering of the proposed north building (right) with the just-finished first Hub building shown at left.

The start of Hub-1 has not been smooth

Now is a somewhat awkward moment for Core Spaces to be asking to build more, as the road to its first Hub’s opening has been a bumpy ride.

We reported last week that The Hub failed to have its Certificate of Occupancy secured by the time residents had been invited to move in, resulting in a major traffic snarl and a lot of unhappy parents. Those parents have contacted ELi in regard to ongoing problems in the building.

We asked Core Spaces to respond to what we’ve been hearing, and Dominick Luciano, marketing expert for Core Spaces, answered our request late yesterday.

About rumors that the rooftop pool had been closed due to construction dust clogging up the filters, Luciano says, “Our pool was temporarily closed for less than 24 hours to rebalance the chemicals after the official ‘Hub Pool Party’ we sponsored this past Saturday. This is very common, especially after a pool party of that size.”

About the dust, he says, “As with any new construction, there is going to be dust. We wish there was no dust prior to move in. We are doing our best, have cleaning crews on site, and will continue to try [to] clean any areas of the building that still need it.”

And what about a couple dozen people supposedly being stuck in an elevator a few nights ago, with the fire department being called?

“Regarding the elevators, 17 people crowded into a functioning elevator, the maximum capacity per elevator is 9. As you can imagine, the weight limit was exceeded. The elevator automatically stopped moving as it was designed to do to protect the passengers.”

Luciano says a representative from Schindler came out immediately “to rectify the problem and everyone was let out safely. To help prevent future issues, our staff created additional reminder signs on every floor that ask residents to be mindful of elevator safety and not to exceed the maximum number of people per elevator.”

He didn’t say whether ELFD was called, and ELFD won’t tell us what happened without a FOIA request, which can take three weeks to get answered.

There has not yet been an indication of when the new Hub proposal will come to Planning Commission for a public hearing. Council had been talking several months ago about having an external consultant perform a housing study, but Council and staff have been silent on that since.

 

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