Modifications could be forthcoming regarding Park District plans
UPDATE 2:26 p.m. Jan. 31: Gore clarified Monday that MSU is in talks with Convexity to potentially partner on the project, not purchase the property. Read more here.
A slew of potential changes surrounding the Park District project might delay the development’s completion, but might also take it in an vastly different direction.
Chicago-based developer Convexity Properties requested to remove the development agreement from the Jan. 31 East Lansing City Council meeting agenda, East Lansing Director of Planning, Building and Development Tim Dempsey said, delaying the next step toward completion. The city concurred, as Convexity has reportedly been considering major changes to their plan for the blighted space.
“Our understanding is they’re going to make some modifications to their site plan, they want to sort of reshuffle the deck in terms of what’s going to be in the project, so if they’re going to do that there’s really no point in working on a development agreement until they have set what the components of the project are that they want to move forward with,” City Manager George Lahanas said.
While an early development agreement draft obtained by East Lansing Info displays the developer’s interest in potentially constructing an additional eight or nine story building on the lot south of Dublin Square, East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows said his understanding is that Convexity is planning to significantly reduce the scale of the development.
“What I believe they’re doing is they’re going to do Building A, not going to do Building B, C1 and C2,” Meadows said.
If Convexity decides to downsize the project to only include Building A, the parking garage and condominiums on Evergreen Avenue would no longer be part of the project.
“They still own that property, they still have that property, but they don’t want to do that property at this time, so they’re scaling back their proposal to only include the corner and the stretch of Grand River (Avenue) that goes up to (The) People’s Church,” Meadows said.
Meadows said cutting the project to solely Building A would cost about 2/3 as much as the current project would cost, as most of the costs were tied to it to begin with. On the current site plan Building A would become a 12-story mixed-use building with hotel and retail units, and Meadows said he didn’t hear anything that would suggest any changes in the building’s design.
In another possibility for the project, East Lansing Info reported that MSU Vice President for Auxiliary Enterprises Vennie Gore said MSU is working with real estate consultants regarding the possibility of buying the property. The deal is theoretical as of now, but MSU’s apparent goal for the site would be to house visiting scholars, students and faculty, according to East Lansing Info.
Gore and MSU spokesperson Jason Cody could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.
Meadows said any major changes to the project would require a new site plan as well as a new brownfield plan should the developer continue to pursue a Tax Increment Financing plan, or TIF.
If Convexity decides to go through with any adding or subtracting of buildings they would have to have the new site plan reviewed by the Planning Commission, Meadows said. Meadows said he estimates a recommendation within six weeks of an initial submission to the commission, as certain review work would not have to be repeated. However, there’s currently no timetable as to when Convexity might submit revisions.
“It’s really up to the developer in terms of presenting some revisions to us, as far as what timeline might look like,” Dempsey said. “The extent to which they change the project will impact the amount of review, potentially, and the time it might take to go through that review process.”
As of now there’s no clear indication which changes Convexity intends to pursue, Dempsey said. Attorney for Convexity David Pierson, Convexity Director of Design Chris Oakley and DRW Holdings Head of Global Investment and Real Estate David Nelson could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.
“I think they’ve talked about a number of ideas, they’ve talked about a potential building at what we call ‘parking lot four,’ the lot south of Dublin (Square), they’ve talked about scaling back other things, but there’s been no definitive indication from them what ultimately that might (be),” Dempsey said. “I think they’re thinking of a lot of different scenarios right now, that’s the sense that I’ve gotten.”
As of now, the only agenda item for Tuesday’s meeting regarding Park District is a request by Convexity to extend the city’s deadline to demolish the blighted buildings until the end of April. This will allow time for Convexity to seek approval for a $10 million Michigan Business Tax credit.
Meadows said he does not know how council will vote come Tuesday, but believes that Convexity is diligently moving the project forward and he is a "yes" vote at the moment.
“If people have confidence that we’re moving in the right direction on this, particularly with regards to the demolition of the buildings, then I don’t see why anybody would have any problem giving them a little more time,” Meadows said. “I feel confident based on my conversations with them that they’re serious about this project, and that makes me feel like I can give them a little more time.”