The project is a proposed multidimensional space that would have dining, retail and living options. DTN Vice President Colin Cronin estimated the project will cost around $200 million if it is completed to its largest scale.
Cronin received a memo in April from Community and Economic Development Administrator Lori Mullins expressing concern about private properties initially involved in the project, including the abandoned bank building at the corner of Abbot Road and Grand River Avenue that was formerly part of the failed City Center II project.
The memo said council wants to know about the status of those lands by the end of May.
Councilmember Ruth Beier said the building’s location on the west side of the beginning of the downtown area makes it unattractive to developers who want to develop the area around it.
“I think it’s likely that if they don’t get ownership of that building, nothing will happen,” she said. “All development is overshadowed by this blight. It’s a pivot point in East Lansing.”
Cronin and East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas both said although the situation is not ideal, they will proceed with a project that is on a smaller scale and would not include privately-owned land.
“It’s been a good conversation,” Cronin said about his discussions with private land owners. “We can also try to work on a smaller project.”
Lahanas said the city wants as many abandoned buildings to be used in future developments as possible, but if a smaller project is the only economically feasible option for the city and DTN, they will proceed with a smaller project.
“It’s our preference that empty buildings be used as a part of the project and be redeveloped, but if the best we can do is a good, vibrant project on a smaller scale we will move forward with that,” he said. “That’s the point of the pre-development phase, it’s to determine what we can come up with.”
For DTN, the biggest issue has not been acquiring land during the pre-development phase but making sure there is an economically feasible project on any scale, Cronin said.
“We’re stuck at, how do get out of this financial hole to make this project economically feasible?” Cronin said. “There is a lot of oversupply coming on the market, and you have to make sure this isn’t just a project that makes sense for a year, but 10 or 20 years down the road.”