City Council to set hearings for Center City, Park District buildings
A clearer picture of downtown East Lansing’s future might emerge in mid April.
Hearings to potentially approve plans for the recently-announced Center City District project and the long-anticipated Park District project are to be scheduled for April 18 and April 25, respectively at Tuesday's 7 p.m. East Lansing City Council meeting, according to the meeting’s consent agenda.
An additional hearing will be set for April 18 for a project that would bring a four-story SpringHill Suites by Marriott hotel and a one-story commercial building to a blighted property at 1100 Trowbridge Road, according to the agenda.
The April 18 discussion-only council meeting is to be canceled and replaced with a regular meeting to expedite the development pipeline, City Manager George Lahanas said.
Council will be debating whether to approve the site plan and brownfield plan for each project at these hearings, Lahanas said. Lahanas said approving the brownfield plans will be more controversial and difficult, as the city will be voting on terms to provide financial support to public infrastructure improvements related to the project.
In the past this has been achieved through tax increment financing, or TIF, a process where property taxes on new public improvements are captured for a period of time to reimburse the developer for related costs. This allows the city to incur no debt and hold no financial risk in a project, but the city is desperate for revenue and might hold the line for favorable terms, such as during the most recent Park District approval attempt.
“If (the site plan) passes but the brownfield doesn’t, the project may well not go, if (the site plan) passes and the brownfield isn’t what (the developers) think they need, it may not go,” Lahanas said. “It’s got to work right, there’s got to be a meeting of the minds. It’s got to be what the developer needs and it’s got to be what council is willing to do.”
Should both the site plan and brownfield plan for a project be approved with satisfaction on both sides, Lahanas said progress should swiftly follow.
“You’d expect it pretty immediately,” Lahanas said. “You might not see something directly, but they’ll be getting plans in for review, then trying to look for demolition permits and shutoffs … then after demolition you have to get building permits to make sure you can start building … then the thing you’ll see is fences going up and buildings coming down, and as soon as they come down, they’ll start building up again.”
Demolition could conceivably begin as soon as a month and as late as two to three months after approval depending on how prepared the developers are to provide additional required plans and architecture, Lahanas said.
“We’re waiting anxiously for these buildings to come down, so I would expect both of them would move pretty quickly to begin demolition after approvals,” Lahanas said. “Hopefully that all works out and we’ll have an exciting project starting in the summer.”
Park District will also be rezoning at Tuesday’s meeting to allow for a five-story residential building to be potentially re-added to the project, Lahanas said. The recently-redesigned project had been tentatively scaled down to solely the 12-story hotel and retail building, attorney for developer Convexity Properties David Pierson said in a past report.
Convexity is expected to have their new site plan ready by Wednesday’s 7 p.m. Planning Commission meeting, where Center City District’s site plan is scheduled to be discussed. Center City District's site plan and brownfield plan are scheduled to be reviewed by the Downtown Development Authority and Brownfield Redevelopment Authority this Thursday, respectively.