Park District Redevelopment Inching Forward

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Friday, July 29, 2016, 12:30 pm
Ian Hoopingarner

Above: demolition of the building at 303 Abbot Road, as seen yesterday.

While, a block away, wreckers took down the last of the “little bank building” at 303 Abbot Road, the East Lansing’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) met yesterday at City Hall and decided to hold off on putting a sale price on the property, which the DDA owns. The DDA also decided to allow the developer that owns the “big bank building” next door to include 303 Abbot Road in a site plan proposal to be submitted next month to East Lansing’s Planning Commission.

According to City staff at the meeting, a site plan for construction on the property at the corner of Abbot Road and Grand River Avenue is likely to be submitted to the Planning Commission next month. The plan will likely not include the DDA-owned properties that run along Evergreen Avenue, just north of Albert Street, nor, apparently, the Evergreen Arms property, which is owned by the same company that owns the “big bank building.”

The DDA acquired 303 Abbot Road with the intention of pushing redevelopment of that key area of East Lansing’s downtown. With the new owners of the “big bank building” next door interested in purchasing 303 Abbot Road to include in their redevelopment plan, the DDA will have to decide a sale price and terms of sale for 303 Abbot Road.

Discussion on the sale price brought up several issues. The first was the size of the property to be sold. City Planning administrator Lori Mullins relayed to the DDA that the Planning Department was considering selling half of the lot and retaining the rest as right-of-way or for realigning Albert Street to make it line up on the east and west sides of Abbot Road. This idea differed slightly from the proposal outlined in her pre-meeting memo, which suggested that the purchaser could be responsible for either maintaining the right-of-way or realigning Albert Street.

In response to Mullins’ remarks, DDA member and former mayor Doug Jester suggested that the property could be sold to the developer in its entirety with the condition that the developer either realign the road or maintain the right-of-way. This suggestion is more in line with the wording of Mullins’ pre-meeting memo. In that case, the DDA would likely sell the entire property at half what it determines to be the value of the whole property.

As ELi reported, before the meeting, the Planning Department proposed a sale price of $425,000. Mullins explained that the price was determined by taking one half of the sum of the DDA’s purchase price for the property ($700,000) and the estimated demolition costs ($150,000).”

DDA Chair Peter Dewan said at the meeting that he was “uncomfortable” with deciding now on the pricing because it might “compromise” the DDA’s ability to negotiate with the development company. DDA member James Croom wanted to know if the City of East Lansing should pay the DDA for the half of the property it would use for the street realignment.

At this point, Mark Meadows, who by virtue of being Mayor is also a member of the DDA, tabled the discussion. Meadows indicated that these kinds of discussions of sale price are not appropriate for an open meeting, which are normally held in an executive session to protect the ability to bargain. He also noted there is not yet any offer of a construction plan from the developer. Meadows also said its possible a site plan will include some other plan for Albert Street, such as eliminating Albert Street west of Abbot Road and using that land as part of a development.

Mullins briefly defended the price proposal, saying that they wanted to be clear that they weren’t just “giving the land away.”

As we reported earlier this week, the Lansing Board of Water and Light (BWL) has submitted additional requirements to protect their duct line that runs along the southern edge of the property at 303 Abbot Road. This adds an additional $55,000 to the cost of the demolition.

Mullins explained to the DDA that the duct line serves most of the downtown area’s businesses with power. The previous plan would have exposed the duct line during the demolition process, and BWL will not allow it to be exposed.

The resubmitted requirements from BWL now state that the south basement wall of 303 Abbot Road must be left standing to protect BWL’s infrastructure. BWL, however, does not want to pay for the additional cost that comes from them changing the plans. Their justification is that they are responsible for construction on their infrastructure, but the demolition of 303 Abbot Rd. represents deconstruction.

Meadows opined that if DDA fronted the additional $55,000 for protecting BWL’s duct line during demolition, the money could most likely be recovered from BWL at a later date, perhaps using legal action.  The DDA voted unanimously to pay up to $55,000 in additional costs for demolition at this time. © 2013-2020 East Lansing Info