As the first official day of spring draws near, the city of East Lansing is looking ahead to construction season.
The city is in the process of reviewing seven proposals for the 2.82-acre segment of downtown that would be renovated. Multiple proposals would feature a farmers market or grocery store, with parking, residential space and hotels as other points of commonality.
While we remain skeptical anything will actually happen after such high-profile projects, such as City Center II have flopped in recent years, there certainly are improvements that could be made.
Omari Sankofa II
A proposal from Capstone Collegiate Communities, LLC and Vlahakis Companies would create 280 residential housing units, along with space for retail and offices. But with the vast amount of housing already available in East Lansing, there are better options for the city to serve both MSU students and East Lansing permanent residents.
Core Campus, LLC has proposed building two new buildings, one eight stories and the other six stories, featuring a total of 181 luxury housing units. There also would be a 382-space parking structure.
There are a couple of issues inherent in such a project. First, what exactly is a luxury housing unit? The term “luxury” is very subjective and could mean almost anything, depending on who you asked. Second, with the vast majority of East Lansing’s already plentiful housing occupied by students, what good does luxury housing do? Students are looking for affordable places to live, not expensive ones.
Another proposal, from Parkside Project, LLC, doesn’t even give specifics, so it would seem unlikely to be picked by the city.
Three proposals explicitly mention a hotel, which could be a real boon to an area that has a lot of visitors coming through for things such as sporting events and graduation ceremonies.
Lurvey White Ventures proposed a 120-room hotel with a 200-person banquet hall, while the submission from MTB Partners, LLC and Visser Brothers Development opts for a 100-room hotel along with 80 residential housing units.
Urban Cultural and Arts District, LLC also proposes a hotel, but the proposal includes no specific number of rooms. With parents and friends of current students visiting MSU, not to mention alumni and prospective students, Kellogg Center and the East Lansing Marriott at University Place are not equipped to handle a sufficient number of guests. A new hotel would be useful in that respect.
DTN Managment Co.’s proposal is one of four — along with the aforementioned Urban Cultural and Arts District, MTB Partners and Lurvey White proposals — that would provide for a farmers market or local grocery store.
For East Lansing residents and MSU students who have to choose between making the trek to a Meijer or paying higher prices at a store such as Quality Dairy, a local source of essentials would be helpful. A year-long farmers market also would help expand East Lansing’s image as a city of the arts and provide an outlet for local produce.
DTN’s proposal also includes 400 parking spaces and provisions for a hotel and residential units. The new source of parking would be helpful to a city currently struggling to provide space beyond what is available on the MSU campus, which isn’t an option for everyone.
Whichever proposal the city decides to take on, it is crucial that each of these elements is considered to satisfy both permanent and temporary residents.