“Everybody is looking at the vacant lot where Trader Joe’s is supposed to be for some time, and nothing is happening. Rumors abound (e.g. supply problems) but no one knows anything. Can Insider look at that?”
The property that has been expected to become the site of a new Trader Joe’s store is at 2755 E. Grand River Ave. That’s the southeast corner of Grand River Avenue and Northwind Drive, across from Whole Foods Market. Work on the project started there and then stopped.
Ingham County’s Register of Deeds shows the property is owned by a limited liability company called SH G2755 LLC. Michigan corporate records show Samuel Chappelle as the original agent for that organization.
That makes sense, as publicly the developers have been identified as Samuel (Sam) Chappelle and Jacob Chappelle of Strathmore Real Estate Group.
Sam and Jacob are the sons of the better-known real estate developer Scott Chappelle, who was recently sentenced to federal prison for 38 months and charged over $1.3 million in restitution and fines for tax evasion. Scott Chappelle is now serving his time in Morgantown, West Virginia.
Could Scott Chappelle’s legal troubles be impacting this project?
Scott Chappelle told the City Pulse in April 2022, “I am not involved in the Trader Joe’s project.” He also said, “My involvement with Strathmore has been passive and operating without my direct involvement for some time now.”
Property records show, five months before he gave that statement to the City Pulse, it was Scott Chapelle who signed the construction mortgage made to SH G2755 LLC on the would-be Trader Joe’s property.
The construction mortgage was made in the amount of $6 million with Kish Bank of State College, Pennsylvania. Under Scott Chappelle’s signature as “Authorized Signer,” the document says he was signing for Chappelle Development Company as the manager for SH G2755 LLC.
Scott Chappelle ultimately pled guilty to only one count: tax evasion. Whether his guilty plea and sentence – including the amount he must pay the government – would be likely to have any impact on the Trader Joe’s project is not clear from what is visible in the public records.
Deed records also show that a contractor recently filed a construction lien on the property.
Consolidated Electrical Distributors of Saint Joseph stated in a Claim of Lien recorded on Nov. 14, 2022, that the company “provided labor or material for an improvement” to the property and was not paid. The last day of that company’s work on the property is listed as Aug. 18, 2022, and the alleged amount owed by SH G2755 LLC to the contractor is $33,001.19. [Update, Nov. 29, 2022: Public records show this lien was released on Nov. 22, 2022.]
Public records also show that the general contractor for the project is E & L Construction Group out of Flint.
ELi reached out to Sam Chappelle, Jacob Chappelle, Consolidated Electrical Distributors and E & L Construction Group to ask what’s going on with the project and the construction lien. No one responded.
While the property has an East Lansing zip code, legally it falls under Meridian Township’s governance. According to Meridian Township’s page on the project, the delays are due to “supply chain demand issues.”
There’s no doubt there are supply chain issues in construction. The East Lansing Parks Department, for example, is seeing projects delayed because of a concrete shortage.
We asked Tim Schmitt, Meridian Township’s Director of Community Planning and Development, if he could tell us anything further. He responded on Nov. 16, “I don’t have any update at this time for you. To our knowledge, Trader Joe’s is still coming to Meridian Township and we look forward to their arrival.”
When we contacted Trader Joe’s corporate office in September to ask why the project isn’t listed on the Trader Joe’s site, the company’s representative said, “We typically announce new stores [only] a couple months before they open.”
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Disclosure: In April 2021, Scott Chappelle and Chappelle Development Company sued East Lansing Info and Alice Dreger for alleged defamation related to reporting on his indictment. Judge Joyce Draganchuk dismissed the lawsuit in October 2021. Chappelle has appealed the dismissal, and the Michigan Appeals Court is expected to hear oral arguments in the case early next year.