East Lansing Development Updates (Spoiler Alert: The Abbot Opens Late August)

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Construction of The Abbot seen from Sharp Park on June 17, 2020.

Good thing the developers of The Abbot were ahead of schedule.

Back in January, developers DRW Convexity held a topping-off celebration for The Abbot, the new apartment building being constructed at the long-blighted corner of Abbot Road and Grand River Avenue. At that time, the developers told ELi the building would be finished by June 25.

Then came the pandemic. While many governors allowed big construction to continue unabated, Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer shut it down. Almost two months passed before construction sites like The Abbot’s could reopen.

The Abbot (left) and The Graduate under construction just south of Dublin Square. (Gary Caldwell for ELi)

Now The Abbot is set to be completed in early August with move-ins happening in late August. At this past week’s City Council meeting, East Lansing Director of Planning Tom Fehrenbach said the developers have plans to manage tenants’ needs if for some reason they can’t move in before school starts.

Fehrenbach tells ELi, “The City is not regulating or handling the move-in. We are requesting the move-in schedules for large buildings in downtown so that we are aware of when these will take place. We want to make sure that the schedules do not conflict with other projects, street closures and move-ins that may take place.”

Developer’s rendering of The Graduate Hotel (left) and The Abbot seen from across Grand River Ave. (from the MSU side).

The Graduate Hotel, being built right next door to The Abbot, is now reaching its final height. Also delayed by Whitmer’s shut-down, The Graduate is expected to open in Spring of 2021 and is also part of DRW Convexity’s “Park District” project.

The third building to be constructed as part of DRW Convexity’s project – still known simply as “Building C” – will be an affordable-housing, six-story apartment building at 341 Evergreen Ave., just across the street from the south side of Valley Court Park. The plans for construction are expected to be submitted in September with groundbreaking by the end of this year. (It is common for these big apartment buildings not to be formally named until construction is underway.)

Convexity’s affordable housing (approved, not yet constructed), which would stand between The CITADEL and Valley Court Park.

Across the street from that lie the DDA’s “Evergreen Properties.” ELi brought a special report on what’s happening with that land last week. In short, developer River Caddis now wants the City to provide and pay for the parking for the big new office building River Caddis wants to propose, called The CITADEL.

The CITADEL project is still in conceptual stages, but the DDA has moved to hire specialist counsel to advise them in big real estate negotiations. The DDA’s exclusive agreement with River Caddis expires on July 24, so for the next step, the DDA will have the advice of City Attorney Tom Yeadon, because it won’t have been able to hire specialist counsel by then.

The CITADEL shown in a concept sketch. The concept is in flux.

The public health shut-down also affected work on East Lansing Public Schools’ new elementary schools, but Superintendent Dori Lekyo has told the School Board the new Whitehills and Pinecrest Elementary Schools will be ready in time for the new school year.

The new Pinecrest School shown in a photo provided by the superintendent.

The old Marble Elementary School is now being demolished, and the new Marble is supposed to be ready for the 2021-22 school year start. Work on the Red Cedar School is also happening, and the final work on Donley and Glencairn is supposed to be finished soon. (See the construction update from the district here.)

City Engineer Nicole McPherson tells ELi, “Due to COVID-19, the anticipated opening of Coleman Road to traffic has been pushed back to early fall 2020, with full project completion anticipated for late fall 2020.”

How come Harrison Road counted as “critical infrastructure” – able to be worked on during the shut-down – but Coleman Road did not?

“The first phase of the [Coleman Road] project was considered critical infrastructure work,” McPherson says, “however, COVID-19 delayed the progress of the design of second phase, which will be out to bid soon and will include solar streetlights and other improvements. There was also some additional water infrastructure being installed on the west side of US-127 that required approval from the state. The overall approval process took longer due to COVID-19.”

Various other roads in East Lansing are closed or being closed for construction, including parts of Trowbridge Road, Burcham Drive, and Lake Lansing Road.

Expect a new rendering soon; this one from Feb. 2020 shows an 8-story structure, but MSUFCU tells ELi its now designed at 7 stories.

MSUFCU is expected to submit plans any day now for its proposal to construct what would now be a 7-story (not 8-story) office building on the City’s Lot 4, just south of Dublin Square. That will have to go through the usual review and approval process, which will take months.

East Lansing’s first marijuana provisioning center is saying it will be open on July 1. Pleasantrees is located at 1950 Merritt Road, right off Haslett Road, in what used to be a dentist’s office. Expect to also see Skymint on Coolidge Road also open sometime soon.

Both of these operations can only sell to people who have prescriptions for medical marijuana, which is the same way 1234 East Grand River Ave. is permitted. But now Pleasantrees, Skymint, and the would-be operation at 1234 East Grand River Ave. all want permission to sell recreational marijuana. Read more here.

We’re not seeing any action on the property just north of Pleasantrees that had been purchased from the City via that controversial eBay auction. Other locations approved for medical marijuana provisioning in East Lansing also appear stalled.

On July 14, City Council will take up review and possible approval of a redevelopment on the northwest side of town between West Road and Coolidge Road. If approved as proposed, part of the site in question will be used to build a new district office for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), the agency that used to be called the DEQ.

EGLE is charged with protecting the state’s wetland habitats, and construction of this new office building will disturb existing wetlands on the property. Presumably EGLE will approve the idea?

Read more about that project as well as DTN’s request to put a fitness room in 300 Grand in ELi’s latest report from Planning Commission.

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