What’s Going On at that Main Corner Downtown?

Tuesday, May 28, 2019, 4:24 pm
Alice Dreger

With traffic lights turned off earlier today at the intersection of Grand River Avenue and Abbot Road, folks are asking East Lansing Info what’s going on?

Traffic lights in the area were temporarily turned off “to accommodate electrical work” related to DRW Convexity’s Park District project, according to the City of East Lansing.

The DRW Convexity project includes three buildings, as rendered by the developers below. Two are now under construction: The Abbot and The Graduate hotel. The third building with moderate-income rental housing is scheduled for later construction. (In this image, Grand River Avenue is in the foreground, and Abbot Road is running up the right side.)

The project, long in the making, obtained the last required approvals late in 2018.

At the corner of Grand River Avenue and Abbot Road, the developers are building “The Abbot,” a 13-story building that will have retail space on the ground floor. Just above the first floor will be two floors of private parking for 89 vehicles, and above that will be 218 rental apartments.

The Abbot’s apartments will be fully furnished. There will be 105 studio apartments, 18 one-bedroom apartments, 45 two-bedrooms apartments, and 50 three-bedrooms apartments. It will be open for occupancy in Fall 2020.

Along Abbot Road, the first floor retail space will be setback, creating a covered sidewalk. The image below shows what the building will look like from Sharp Park, the small park at the northeast corner of Abbot Road and Grand River Avenue.

In this rendering, the park is shown in the foreground without the park’s trees and fence, at the request of a Council member who wanted to see a clear-view rendering of the building. In the background is the hotel (now also under construction). Here's roughly the same angle rendering from the air:

The plans for The Abbot also call for 187 total bicycle parking spaces, including those provided indoors for the building’s residents.

A major feature of this project is the reconfiguration of Albert Avenue, moving that road slightly south on the west side of Abbot Road. The result will be that Albert Avenue will finally line up across Abbot Road.

Just west of The Abbot, the short southern leg of Evergreen Avenue will still cut from Grand River Avenue to Albert Avenue. Along there, DRW Convexity is building a 10-story hotel for The Graduate chain. That will stand between Evergreen Avenue and Peoples Church’s Memorial Garden, along Grand River Avenue.

The Graduate hotel will have 195 guest rooms, a ballroom for weddings and other big events, meeting rooms for rental, a lobby with a public coffee stand, and a rooftop restaurant/bar. The hotel is set to open in Fall 2020.

Somewhat controversially, The Graduate hotel in East Lansing will have no on-site parking, offering guests who arrive with cars either valet service or self-park in City-owned facilities. The hotel is leasing space in City lots for the valet service.

To satisfy the City of East Lansing’s Ordinance 1384, a law meant to provide diverse housing options downtown, DRW Convexity will also construct a third building for this large redevelopment project.

That five-story building, with an address of 341 Evergreen Ave., will include 72 income-restricted rental apartments and 26 car-parking spaces for residents. There will also be parking spaces for 45 bicycles.

We reported earlier this month that Convexity’s Chris Oakley called speculation that his development team won’t build that third building “silly gossip.” That building must be finished by the end of 2024 according to the developers’ contract with the City.

Earlier this year we reported that the developers had submitted building plans with finishes that did not match what had been rendered, and that the plans were later corrected to match what had been shown in the approval process. We also reported on City Council’s 4-1 vote to approve of the redesign of the lobby space.

The project is being supported with a $10 million state tax credit and a $7.9 million local tax increment financing (TIF) plan. In the TIF plan, about half of the expenditures being reimbursed are for public infrastructure, including the realigning of Albert Avenue.

The TIF plan is designed to divert 100 percent of new eligible taxes from the project for about nine years, after which local taxing agencies will obtain the full property taxes due from the redeveloped properties.


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