Ask ELi: What’s Happening Near Frandor?

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Gary Caldwell for ELi

Ranney Park just before the project started, shown in late Sept. 2020. Frandor is to the right. The SkyVue apartment building (with blue accents) is at the upper right, and the new "University Edge" apartments can been seen just to the left of SkyVue. East Lansing is to the left.

An ELi reader asked us this week: “What is all the earth-moving for, east of Frandor, next to Marshall Music?”

The big construction people are seeing happening at Ranney Park is part of an improvement project known as the Montgomery Drain, managed by Ingham County Drain Commissioner Pat Lindemann. 

Photo by Gary Caldwell taken on Jan. 6, 2021. Marshall Music’s building is in the upper left of the photo.

It all relates to the private-development construction happening just south of there, across Michigan Ave., where the former Red Cedar Golf Course is now being developed into a major new student-focused apartment complex called “University Edge.” (This project is in Lansing, so it was approved by the Lansing City Council, not East Lansing’s.)

When the project is complete, Ranney Park will be a highly-designed park with water features, artwork, and paths. Sledders will not be disappointed; they will still find a big hill there for their winter pleasure.

Gary Caldwell’s drone photography for ELi suggests sledders were checking out the revised geography yesterday (Jan. 6, 2021).

According to a City of Lansing website about the project, “The current Montgomery Drain stormwater improvement project will repair sections of the existing drain and add new facilities including detention ponds, rain gardens and ‘low impact design’ features. Areas within the City of Lansing include the former Red Cedar Golf Course, the Frandor Shopping area and the Frandora Hills neighborhood (see map). The project was initiated in 2014, however, construction began in 2020 and is expected to last for two years.”

The project was highly controversial and went through many iterations before being approved by the various authorities involved.

Because the Montgomery Drain mainly serves areas of Lansing, that City will bear the bulk of the cost — a little more than $22 million at present. Lansing is paying for its portion, in part, with a city-wide Drain Code Tax. (See more on that here.)

But parts of East Lansing are also included in the footprint of the Montgomery Drain, namely parts of the Hillcrest Village Apartments directly to the east and, to the north, portions of neighborhoods just east of Coolidge Road.

Ranney Park before construction started (late Sept. 2020) looking northeast towards East Lansing. Photo by Gary Caldwell for ELi.

East Lansing is paying for 7.2% of the project’s costs, or approximately $2.5 million. 

Lansing Township, the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Ingham County Road Department are also paying for their respective portions of the project.

Who is paying what for the Montgomery Drain project (source).

A major selling point of the proposed improvements has been that there will be decreased pollution making it to the Red Cedar River from storm runoff and the like.

A 2016 presentation on the project prepared by Lindemann’s office laid out the specific case for the Montgomery Drain improvements in regard to pollution. 

One slide of the powerpoint notes that, “In 1995, and for many years after, the Drain Commissioners of Ingham and Livingston County’s, looked closely at 236 County Drains tributary to the Red Cedar River in both counties. Detailed analyses showed that this drain was by far the most polluted.”

It also notes that the improvements will reduce minor stormwater flooding on surface-level parking lots and other paved areas. 

Visit the City of Lansing’s website on the project to dig in deeper yourself, or keep asking ELi questions.

Alice Dreger contributed reporting.

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