What’s Going on with That Big Development?

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Monday, October 29, 2018, 6:38 am
Alice Dreger

We’re getting this question a lot from readers: What’s going on with that big development project downtown?

The thing is, our readers are not all asking about the same one. So here’s your omnibus update from ELi on downtown construction projects:

The Hub (shown in rendering above) is due to be open next fall at the southeast corner of Grand River Avenue and Bogue Street, a couple of blocks north of Cedar Village.

At ten stories tall and a block in width, The Hub will be an apartment building specifically targeted at MSU students, with about 350 apartments for about 600 people, and a rooftop deck with a pool and other amenities. The first floor will hold retail space, including for a Georgio’s Pizza and 7-11 store that used to stand on that land.

The Hub proposal was somewhat controversial because it has very little car parking for the number of apartments and retail spaces. What was uncontroversial is that it comes with no East Lansing Tax Increment Financing (TIF) plan, which means that as soon as it opens, it will start producing significant property tax revenue. (Mayor Pro Tem Erik Altmann called the project a model for how the City could increase population density while increasing tax revenues.)

Haley Hansen, reporting for the Lansing State Journal, reported last week that demand for the The Hub has been so strong, the project has raised prices twice since leasing began.

Center City District is the name of the really big development in the heart of downtown. The photo at the lead of this story shows ongoing construction, and the rendering just above this paragraph shows the plan for the building facing Grand River Avenue, a building now called The Landmark.

The Landmark, due to be a 12-story building, had first been marketed to prospective tenants by the developers as “purpose-built student housing” but is now advertised also for young post-graduate professionals. Like The Hub, the Landmark will have an “amenity deck” – but on the second floor, not the top floor. Design plans for the deck show fire pits, gaming areas, four 60-inch televisions, and lots of seating. The Landmark will have about 273 apartments for about 460 people. It’s also due to open in Fall 2019.

The first floor of the Center City building on Grand River Avenue will hold an urban-style Target store. At a public meeting earlier this month, East Lansing Community and Economic Development Administrator Tom Fehrenbach said Target personnel are expected to start working on the interior of the store soon. He added that he could not “speak to their temporal happiness,” meaning that Target may not be completely happy about the progress of various components of this project.

In the Center City District project, as shown above, along Albert Avenue will be retail space at street level, four floors of public parking above that, and five floors of 55+ housing above that on the east end (nearest MAC Avenue). At the same public meeting last week where Fehrenbach spoke about the Target store, co-developer Greg Ballein was asked about possible renters for the retail space set for Albert Avenue.

Ballein said that he thought about half the retail space on Albert Avenue is now “allotted” to specific tenants but said that he was not in a position to give details. He said renting out of that space was “a matter of not turning it into a food court.”

Ballein said that the 55+ building, now called Newman Lofts, will see marketing starting on November 1. About thirty people have expressed interest in renting those “adult active living” apartments, according to Ballein. He said the thirty people who had expressed interest included about eight MSU professors. Prices are not yet available for those 92 apartments.

There has been no significant sign so far of the construction of the Albert Avenue apartments for people aged 55 and up. (The image above shows where they are supposed to be built, above the structure constructed so far.)

Those 55+ apartments are not what the developers wanted to build. They were added to the plan as a way to address an East Lansing law, Ordinance 1384, that requires that big projects in core downtown dedicate at least 25% of their housing units to something other than student-type rental housing.

The Center City District project locks up the next 30 years in taxes to pay for the project, for a bond that mostly pays for public infrastructure. The project is set to produce $200,000 per year in lease payments to the City for the public land being used for private development along Albert Avenue.

City Council recently voted to allot about a quarter-million dollars for new equipment for the new Center City District parking garage.

The Park District is the sometimes-name of the big redevelopment that will probably be built at the blighted corner downtown, at the northwest corner of the intersection of Abbot Road and Grand River Avenue. That project includes a 12-story building (shown above, to the right) at the corner, set to have about 218 market-rate apartments for about 380 people, 89 indoor parking spaces (all private), and a rooftop terrace, with retail space on the ground floor.

Just west of that, shown to the left in the rendering directly above, near Peoples Church will be a hotel in The Graduate chain. North of there the developers are signed up to build a 5-story residential building for 72 income-restricted rental apartments. That’s how these developers, DRW/Convexity, are supposed to satisfy Ordinance 1384. But that particular structure, the smallest in the site plan, doesn’t have to be completed until 2025, so don’t expect it anytime soon. The Park District project plans to make use of public parking, like the Center City District project, although the Park District does have some parking built within two of the private structures. (Center City uses all public parking facilities, partly through bulk long-term leases.)

The Park District plan has just one more hurdle, after years of drama: a state-level approval set to happen on November 27. If that happens, site prep may start as early as this December, with foundation work starting in January. DRW/Convexity wants to have the corner building ready for rental in August 2020.

The tax increment financing (TIF) plan on this one shrank with every version of the proposal, finally ending up at about $7.9 million for nine years. The captured taxes will pay for public infrastructure in the area (roads, sewers, etc.), prior demolition of the blighted buildings, and a relatively small amount of environmental clean-up. After about nine years, the taxes will all flow into the coffers of the usual jurisdictions, including the City of East Lansing.

Park Place:

Park Place is the name for the still-pretty-vague idea for the area encompassing the Dublin Square property and land just west of there. For the latest on that project, read our report from last week.

Too much?

Haley Hansen’s report for the Lansing State Journal last week provided an in-depth look at the question of whether we’re seeing “too much” housing built for MSU students, including in East Lansing’s Downtown. Check that out here.


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