New Corner Plans Call for Hotel, Public Plaza, Maybe Grocery

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016, 7:44 am
Alice Dreger


Details are now emerging on the new development plans for the major blighted site at the northwest corner of Abbot Road and Grand River Avenue in downtown East Lansing. According to Christopher Oakley, Director of Design for Chicago-based Convexity Properties, the property is likely to include a hotel with 150 rooms, retail space on the ground level, and residential apartments on the upper floors.

About 40-50% of the retail space might be used for a downtown grocery store, Oakley told me last night. He said that in conversations with City Council members, they had made it clear they are very interested in having a grocery store at the space. He indicated Convexity Properties’ development team is looking into options for that.

The project also includes plans for a public plaza space carved out at the corner. It would have planters, benches, and other public amenities. Oakley told me last night that this open space at the corner is meant “as a civic gesture.” He added that such a design creates “an activated space” that would benefit the retail on the ground floor, but that an open plaza also creates a lively urban space for visitors to downtown—“a nice public benefit.”

Oakley would not say which chain might become the tenant for the hotel portion of the project, but he said it would be a “campus-centric product.” For the apartments, he said the goal is “mixed market.” He saw the likely residents being not so much undergraduate or graduate students as international professionals visiting campus, adjunct professors, and other working professionals.

The current plan calls for onsite parking for visitors to the hotel, but not for the people living in the residential apartments. He said that discussions are taking place about where to provide parking for residents.

The plan as it is evolving calls for the building to happen on a large piece of land which combines what are now legally a number of different properties: (1) 100 Grand River Avenue, the site of the “big bank building,” still standing; (2) the vacant commercial properties just west of there, just east of Peoples Church; (3) the portion of Evergreen Avenue that currently exists between these properties; and (4) “a sliver” of the property at 303 Abbot Road, where the “little bank building” was just demolished. This arial map shows what the property would encompass:

The property at 303 Abbot Road is currently owned by East Lansing’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA). The DDA has indicated it is comfortable with the developer including the property in the proposal. Most of 303 Abbot Road is likely to be used to realign Albert Street so that it does not jog as it crosses Abbot Road.

Oakley came with two colleagues this week to East Lansing in part to speak to East Lansing’s Transportation Commission last night. The three were looking to get a sense of what the Commission will be looking for from the project.

Transportation Commission members indicated they hope the redevelopment will be used as an opportunity to create a dedicated bike lane southbound on Abbot Road, with a straight-across crossing of Grand River Avenue that would allow bicyclists to easily pick up the bike lane that begins on campus at that point.

Oakley said he would welcome the Commission’s and City staff’s assistance dealing with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), which owns and controls Grand River Avenue and the traffic signals and crosswalks on that road. He told the Transportation Commission whether a bike lane can be added northbound on Abbot Road may depend on when properties on that side (the east side) of Abbot Road are redeveloped.

Oakley told me there are no current plans for the property at 341-345 Evergreen Avenue, where the old Evergreen Arms apartment buildings were just demolished. Oakley said his company is focusing exclusively for now on the site at the major corner, not on what he referred to as the Park District properties.


For a follow-up to this story, click here.


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