City Council approves site plans, debated brownfield plan for Park District area
After approximately a decade of stagnant development at the corner of Grand River Avenue and Abbot Road, otherwise known as Park District, East Lansing City Council breathed a possibly stimulating breath into the future of East Lansing’s downtown district. On Tuesday night, council unanimously approved site plans for the Park District area presented by Chicago-based developer Convexity Properties.
Furthermore, council voted 4-1 on an amended brownfield plan, which will reimburse the developer a $26.2 million interest free during a 30-year plan.
The original brownfield plan included a just under $25 million dollar reimbursement to the developer paid back through 23 years beginning in 2018, which carried 5 percent interest. The city would be able to collect property taxes of about $160,000 a year beginning in 2040.
“I know this is a lot of money and I know it appears to be a lot of money to the people of this city, but I’m convinced that going forward on this is the right thing to do,” East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows said of the overall project. “I think that paying for public infrastructure improvements … is the right way for us to go.”
Even with approval of the plans, a timetable for development and other details of the project will continue to be hashed out in the coming weeks and possibly months. Though plans have been approved, there is no guarantee of development moving forward.
Site plans laid forth by the developer include three buildings in the 100 block of Grand River Avenue and along the 300 block of Evergreen Avenue, creating a modern hub for businesses and travelers at the west end of the cities downtown.
The most prominent structure, a 12-story mixed use structure housing a hotel and retail units, would replace the “eyesore” buildings along Grand River Avenue where Thai Hut and the old Citizens Bank building once stood.
Evergreen Avenue, which saw the Evergreen Arms Apartments demolished last year, will now be the site of two buildings. The developer will construct a five-level parking garage able to house 425 parking spaces and an attached “12 dwelling units.” The garage will be owned by the city.
Furthermore, condominiums will be constructed next to the garage near the edge of Valley Court Park.
In addition to the construction of the buildings, the Park District area will undergo significant redevelopment in regards to streets, underground infrastructure. Plans currently include improvements to street right of ways, water and sewer lines and “redevelopment of Evergreen Avenue as a pedestrian/bicycle thoroughfare.”
Construction of the site is expected to cost nearly $148 million.
Plans have come and fizzled out through the years as different groups languished behind inadequate funding sending the situation into a frustrating saga, leaving many skeptical of any plans laid before council and East Lansing residents.
Many attending the meeting expressed concerns about the project including preparation, funding and the city’s debt, but councilmember Susan Woods believed the city had waited long enough to act regarding the redevelopment.
“We have been looking at this blight for 10 years, it has been the subject of complaints by every single person, it is an embarrassment to our town, it is an embarrassment to Michigan State University,” Woods said.
Request for comment with the developer's attorney, David Pierson, had not been returned by the time of this story’s publishing.
Stay with The State News for more on the developing Park District story.