Developer of Halted East Lansing Project Is Concerned

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Gary Caldwell for ELi

Construction on The Abbot in East Lansing's downtown has been halted. But leases are signed with the assumption that occupancy will happen this summer.

With Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order shutting down big private construction projects, the developer of the project at East Lansing’s long-blighted downtown corner is getting nervous about having that building done in time for tenants who are expecting to have a place to live this summer.

Convexity Properties is the developer for “The Abbot” at the northwest corner of Abbot Road and Grand River Avenue. The building includes just over 200 apartments designed to house just under 400 people, along with space for a Walgreens pharmacy on the ground floor.

When last ELi checked in with Convexity late last month, the apartments at The Abbot were about 95 percent leased. Signed tenants have been expecting to move in this summer.

Now, according to Convexity, “All building construction being performed by Walsh Group has stopped, the jobsite is secure and work suspended until the current Executive Order is lifted or changed.”

Convexity said in a statement to ELi that their group is “reviewing our logistics to be able to attack and complete the project work. The health and safety of everyone is our most important priority, but we also need to be cognizant of the date-certain delivery schedule, different from most residential construction. It is essential that we complete this project prior to August 2020 to ensure student tenants have a place to live.”

As ELi reported earlier this week, MSU may yet decide to hold fall classes online, but that decision would likely come months from now. Convexity believes that at least some of its signed tenants will still expect occupancy in summer.

Convexity points out that in some other states “in which Walsh and Convexity are performing work, residential units have been deemed critical, subject to new health and safety guidelines to protect workers, city inspectors, and all people visiting project sites.”

The developer makes plain: “We believe that work should be allowed to proceed as essential where the school year dictates occupancy.”

But Whitmer is widely expected this week to extend the stay-at-home order, not lighten it.

People walking or driving by the job site of The Abbot this week might have noticed construction trucks operating near the base. That’s because the governor’s order does allow for construction of public infrastructure to go on. Consequently, the reconstruction of Albert Avenue and Evergreen Avenue (south of Albert) is continuing.

MacKenzie is allowed, under the governor’s order, to continue “critical infrastructure work” on public land including this portion of Albert Avenue, just west of Abbot Road.

Convexity explains, “The infrastructure work MacKenzie Companies is performing for the City of East Lansing . . . is categorized as ‘critical public infrastructure work’ and that work is currently underway. It is being done by limited crews with measures in place to protect them, as outlined in the Governor’s order.” 

The City of East Lansing put out a press release yesterday indicating that City staff has determined the following additional projects can continue, so long as each has “no more than ten workers on site, excluding inspectors, deliveries and other ancillary personnel”:

  • the Michigan Avenue and Harrison Road sewer improvement project;
  • the replacement of the Woodingham Pump Station;
  • water main restoration work on Durand Street, Cornell Avenue, and Evergreen Avenue;
  • the Harrison Road conversion from four lanes to three, with resurfacing – a controversial project among businesses and homeowners in the Chesterfield Hills;
  • Trowbridge Road/Forest Road resurfacing;
  • the Lake Lansing Road Concrete Joint Repair Project from West Road to Abbot Road.

The last three all have tentative start dates of mid-May with periodic lane or road closures.

According to the City, “The contractors for [all] these projects will also comply with the Ingham County Health Officer’s emergency order to screen the employees that are coming to work.”

That doesn’t involve testing for COVID-19. It only involves screening for signs of the disease, like cough and fever.

Meanwhile, work has also stopped at the construction site of The Graduate Hotel, just west of The Abbot, next to Peoples Church’s Memorial Garden. That project is less time-sensitive, but the original hope had been to have it ready for occupancy sometime this fall.

ELi has a special section dedicated to our reporting on COVID-19 for East Lansing. See it here and sign up for ELi’s mailer to stay informed.

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