The Latest on Redevelopment Projects in East Lansing

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In spite of the pandemic, redevelopment in East Lansing continues apace. Today, we bring you a rundown on East Lansing redevelopment news.

Creating live-work space for artists in East Lansing?

Members of East Lansing’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) responded with great excitement to a presentation at this week’s meeting by representatives of Artspace. A Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization, Artspace has as its mission “to create, foster, and preserve affordable and sustainable space for artists, and arts organizations.” The group has a long and successful history of developing and managing live-work space for artists in communities throughout the U.S., including Michigan.

Mike and Mary Levine and Elinor Holbrook spearheaded the idea of having Artspace make a presentation to the DDA about the possibility of creating affordable housing of this type here. The presentation from Artspace’s representatives made clear this is a years-long endeavor that involves a lot of careful assessment and arrangement of public funding (including federal, state, local, and philanthropic).

But the DDA was excited to get going right away, and passed a recommendation that City Council allocate $30,000 for an initial contract with Artspace to assess the community’s needs and interests.

The redevelopment project that started with the eBay land sale is moving forward.

Andy Andre of Avanti Development Group, the developers of the property at 2400 Merritt Road, came to Planning Commission this week to ask for an extension of the approval of their site plan and special use permit for the former DPW site, located near Costco. This is the plot of land that was sold via eBay by the City of East Lansing.

The approved plan calls for construction of a hotel, strip mall, and medical marijuana provisioning center, and the Planning Commission’s approval of an extension request like this is always a fairly bureaucratic issue. After sorting out a technicality, the commission voted unanimously in favor.

The request did give us a chance to hear about progress on the project. Andre said that the building permit application is with the City with the required fees paid. The team is just waiting for approval by the Building Department. Various other required permits are also approved or in the works, according to Andre. So, it looks like construction will start there soon.

Coming very soon: Dunkin Donuts and Walgreens.

The Abbot, the big new building at the corner of Abbot Road and Grand River Avenue, opened to residential tenants last summer. Now, the first retail tenants are getting ready to open.

Walgreen’s drug store is expected to open on Monday, Feb. 1, with the door for that chain store being at the main corner. Just to the west of the Walgreen’s, along the Grand River Ave. of The Abbot, a new Dunkin Donuts location is expected to open around Feb. 15. Both businesses have been hiring.

No other tenants have been named for the additional retail space at The Abbot.

Expect the Graduate Hotel to open in late spring.

Between The Abbot and Peoples Church’s memorial garden, construction of the Graduate Hotel is reaching final stages. The construction elevator is still in use, but the grand ballroom on the second floor is now plainly visible. The plan includes a public coffee shop space on the first floor, just off the hotel lobby, and a rooftop bar/hotel.

According to City planning department staff, some of the hotel’s interior floors are now complete, and the expectation is that the Planning Commission, DDA, and finally City Council will be asked soon to consider the application for alcohol sales by the hotel and restaurant. Expect the opening of the hotel in late spring.

MSUFCU’s struggle with the owners of Dublin Square is apparently continuing.

We have been reporting that the hold-up on construction of the office tower by MSUFCU has been caused by legal warnings from the owners of Dublin Square. The approved project, which would be at the northwest corner of Abbot Road and Albert Avenue, would be built right to the property line shared with Dublin Square. On that side, the credit union’s building would have a seven-story high windowless brick wall facing the deck of Dublin Square.

The owners of the Dublin Square property don’t want construction impacting their property or business, and that’s thrown a wrench in the construction plans for months. (ELi readers who have been paying attention will recall that one of the owners of Dublin Square, Paul Vlahakis, had hoped to use the parking lot being sold to MSUFCU for a project of his own – “Park Place.”)

At the DDA this week, City staff said they would be bringing forward an idea to use some of the DDA’s Evergreen Avenue properties to help MSUFCU get this project done. What that would look like isn’t clear, but they’ve said they could have the vacant rental house at 334 Evergreen Avenue (shown below on left) demolished and the land there used for construction staging.

At this week’s meeting, staff also asked the DDA to hold off on renting 314 and 328 Evergreen Avenue to tenants for the next academic year, until staff can figure out whether they could also use those properties to help MSUFCU.

DDA member Greg Ballein said he wanted to make sure this use of the DDA’s land for the project wasn’t “giving money away” to MSUFCU. Details are expected to come to next month’s DDA meeting.

The credit union hasn’t actually closed on the purchase the public land for the property yet, and Council has extended the sale agreement to April to give the credit union more time to work out the problem.

Bits of Biggby are still standing.

Wondering why the roof of the original Biggby at 270 W. Grand River Avenue is still standing, kind of on stilts? DTN doesn’t yet have official permission to demolish the building and use the area where it stood to create more parking.

DTN’s application is right now stuck at Planning Commission, as DTN has asked for more time to pull together everything that commission wants to see for the design of the expanded parking lot, including design for lighting, landscaping, and setback. This is expected to come back to the commission on Feb. 10.

After the request clears Planning Commission, City Council will get the final say, and there has to be public noticing for the hearing related to that, so it will probably be several weeks more before the remainder of the Biggby building is demolished.

We can expect that eventually DTN will be interested in redeveloping the property to be more than a private-pay parking lot, given the location.

Finally, what’s up with the DDA’s Evergreen properties?

Did you miss it? See our latest report on talks involving that potential public-private deal, published on Thursday, here.

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