Explore Vacant Commercial Properties in Downtown East Lansing

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The space that had held Lotsa Pizza became a leasing office for The Abbot. But now that The Abbot is open, this space is available again.

East Lansing’s Downtown Development Authority tracks commercial-space vacancies in downtown East Lansing, and they have a review of that information coming up. 

ELi has taken that material and put it into an interactive map so you can easily see what the City’s planning and economic development staff have provided to the DDA.

Here’s the map. You can click on the pins to read the information provided by City staff.

Some things we noted while looking at this material:

–  A total of over 60,000 square feet of vacant space is listed in the materials provided to the DDA. But, judging by for-rent signs in downtown windows, not all downtown vacancies are listed in the material provided. 

– The DDA doesn’t receive consistent information about vacant properties. Some of the listings provided show leasing rates, others don’t; some show lease rates by square foot, others by the whole space; some show who owns the property, others don’t.

– The information is missing a lot of the material commercial brokers and renters would expect to have. But it does provide information about who to contact for more info.

– There’s a lot of vacant office space in downtown East Lansing and the pandemic hasn’t increased interest in office space. So it is perhaps not surprising that MSUFCU decided to chop off an entire floor of office space in the design of their new office building – going from a planned 8 stories to only 7. The credit union plans to rent out two floors when the building opens, but has not identified tenants for those floors.

– This all raises questions about the viability of The CITADEL concept for the DDA’s Evergreen properties. The developer of The CITADEL, River Caddis Development, is saying they want to build 8 stories of office space coming in at 250,000 square feet. 

– The DDA is often told about businesses opening in East Lansing, but they rarely get a report about businesses closing, except obliquely through this vacancy listing approach. Two of the retail establishments this round of listing shows as having gone out of business: Twitchell’s Cleaners on M.A.C. and Blaze Pizza on Grand River Ave.

– Segments of the newest retail space in The Abbot (on the corner of Grand River Ave. and Abbot Road) and in Center City (along Albert Ave.) remain unclaimed. While the space at The Abbot is listed in this document, the space at Center City is not.

– There is one business type that keeps renting downtown East Lansing storefront space and then relinquishing it within a year: big student housing developers renting space along Grand River Ave. in order to court students as tenants while big new student-housing projects are under construction. This happened with The Hub, The Abbot, and The Landmark. 

Today, there’s space occupied downtown by staff of “University Edge.” That’s the student housing portion of the huge Lansing project known as “Red Cedar,” going up on the site of the former golf course, just over East Lansing’s border on Michigan Ave., across from Frandor.

University Edge is pitching its product to MSU students out of 225 E. Grand River Ave., a storefront which used to hold the clothing shop East Lansing Threads.

Threads was a local business that, like others nearby, experienced stress from the Center City District construction and then from the pandemic shut-down. Just around the corner, Mackerel Sky gave up before the pandemic hit, Twitchell’s cleaners closed for good a few weeks ago, and Exscape Smoke Shop (a head shop) closed this spring.

However, on that same block, Rise Smoke/Vape Shop has just opened where GNC used to be, at 217 E. Grand River Ave. Apparently college towns abhor a vacuum where head shops are concerned.

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