To walk the downtown corridor of East Lansing is to walk the work of David Krause.
There’s The Residences building, with HopCat on the ground floor. The Albert Place Condos where Bailey Street meets Albert Ave. Just across the street from that, 565 East Grand River, with the Broad ArtLab at the base. The Treehouse and the Stonehouse Village apartments. Harrison Roadhouse.
When Krause died on August 18 at the age of 75, he left a huge legacy of redevelopment in the town he loved. Much of that work happened in partnership with Douglas Cron and Terry Oetzel.
“We changed a lot of the landscape of East Lansing by the buildings we developed together and had a lot fun doing it,” Cron told ELi by email earlier today. “David was a special person and the world is a better place because of him. He loved East Lansing and anyone who knew him saw his passion for the city.”
Indeed, those who knew Krause remember him not only for his three-dimensional contributions, but also for his constant work boosting East Lansing and its town-gown connections. It was not uncommon to see him at podiums presenting his latest project while wearing a Spartan shirt.
Recalling Krause as “a great guy,” Oetzel told ELi that that the three-way partnership took off around 1985, and “We have built six new buildings in downtown East Lansing since that time.”
Before the big out-of-state developers arrived in East Lansing, Krause’s group had “put more new buildings in downtown East Lansing than all of the other developers together,” explains Oetzel.
Julie Barrett Ludden, who worked with and for Krause for almost 30 years, said about him in an email to ELi, “He always appreciated hard work and effort from all of us. He rarely criticized but, if necessary, he made sure to let you down easy (and maybe bring cookies for the delivery!). He is missed.”
Former Mayor Vic Loomis told ELi on Saturday that the news of Krause’s death “has left me stunned and shaken. David was a major force in East Lansing business.”
Loomis recalls, “We met on the tennis courts in the 1970s and I remember when he started dating Colleen, the woman who would become his beloved wife. I banked his work, hung out with him, he was my neighbor in Whitehills, and we were partners in the Nuthouse in downtown Lansing. He loved sports cars and was my ‘chauffeur’ in the MSU Homecoming parade when I was mayor. His loss will be deeply felt by many in our community, and the loss to his family is heartbreaking.”
Many we spoke with for this report told us that it’s important not just to understand the scope of the work Krause did, but also the thoughtfulness that went into the projects, and the attention to economic sustainability.
A point of pride for the group was the building of attractive projects meant to improve the area’s aesthetic and to stand the test of time. Often their buildings attracted out-of-town retail businesses to invest in East Lansing.
Said Oetzel, “Our buildings were not large projects that overwelled the downtown area but that blended in with the other developments.” (“Overwell” means to tower over in an oppressive way.)
Oetzel says Krause’s “ideas and developments added to the quality of the downtown area.”
Krause “was the best with the fine details of our building’s exteriors which he insisted on right down to the exterior lighting,” said Cron.
Architect and Planning Commission Chair Dan Bollman told ELi via email that “[David Krause] and his business associates held themselves to a consistently higher standard, engaging with strong architectural talent, which brought outstanding results for their properties.”
“One need only look at the historical images recorded on Google Street View to appreciate the changes that have occurred along on the 200 block of Albert Ave.,” thanks to Krause, according to Bollman.
“As late as 2011,” Bollman explains, “the area looked like a suburban strip mall with one story buildings set back from the street, surface parking (!) on the corner of Albert and MAC and paint spilled off the Grove Street Parking Structure as public art. Now, with the HopCat/Residences building anchoring the corner at Grove Street, and the St. Anne Loft [built by a different developer] directly to the east, the Ann Street Plaza serves as a vibrant, pedestrian friendly gathering place at East Lansing’s core.”
Peter Dewan, Chair of East Lansing’s Downtown Development Authority, has a similar level of appreciation of the man and his work: “I served with David Krause on the DDA and will always remember his commitment to East Lansing and his desire to create an inviting downtown that families and residents would enjoy. He spent countless hours trying to enhance Ann Street Plaza as an attractive gathering space for East Lansing residents.”
Says Dewan, “Our community is indebted to David’s vision to make East Lansing a better place.”
Former Mayor Mark Meadows recalls that “David was the main driver in the redevelopment of the eastern part of the downtown and took risks to do the right thing there. From Collingwood to Bailey and Bailey to the walk thru along Grand River, David redeveloped and attracted good retail to his buildings. They were well designed and managed.”
Meadows remembers Krause as “a huge supporter” of East Lansing and a man who “put his money where his mouth was.”
As a long-time development reporter for ELi, I would run into Krause at City meetings. Often, I could watch his face to be able to tell what was really going on in the room. Few knew the real estate politics of this town better than he did.
Krause and his wife and partners supported East Lansing Info (ELi) financially in the last few years. On the rare occasions we communicated, Krause indicated to me simply that he believed that getting the truth about City government out there would be in the whole community’s best interest.
The people who knew him best are clearly feeling the loss acutely.
Says Cron, “I’m proud of the accomplishments we’ve achieved together, but am more proud to have had him as a friend. Things from now on for me will seem somewhat empty in many ways as we always worked out our issues like brothers would have. I’m sure in spirit he will be there for me and all of us.”