Park District development agreement approved unanimously
East Lansing City Council voted 4-0 to unanimously approve the Park District development agreement, clearing the way for the “eyesore” buildings standing at the corner of Grand River Avenue and Abbot Road to meet their end.
Seen as the final hurdle for the city regarding the long-awaited project, the development agreement nearly secures the future of downtown East Lansing's west end.
Tuesday marked the first time council spoke collectively and publicly about the development agreement, though both councilmember Erik Altmann and Mayor Mark Meadows were present at Downtown Development Meetings throughout its drafting and review process.
However, the project hinges on developer 100 Grand River LLC capturing a $10 million Michigan Business Tax credit, remaining from a prior failed project slated for the same corner of Grand River Avenue and Abbot Road. Meadows said previously that the developer might decide to pull out of the project if the tax credit is denied.
David Pierson, attorney for the developer, said previously the developers are working to secure a decision at the Michigan Strategic Fund's July 25 meeting and stated so again in front of council. Following the council meeting, he appeared confident the project would secure the credit.
“It’s a project that is much like the one they approved a number of years ago, but we think it’s a better project and a better addition to the city than that one was,” Pierson said. “We feel it’s a good project for them to spend the money they were going to spend on that project.”
Pierson said demolition will start within 10 days of capturing the tax credit.
“They’re going to be here,” Pierson said. “They’re going to be on the site, they’re going to have operations underway, so it’s just them walking into the next step to take the buildings down.”
Council did not present any qualms with the agreement, merely asking a few clarifying questions which over a half hour span of deliberation.
Altmann asked a variety of questions of the agreement, even pointing out grammatical errors with a touch of humor. He also noted an overlooked disclaimer paragraph which neither Pierson or city attorney Tom Yeadon caught in the final review.
Altmann too asked what would happen if building A was halfway-built and the developer went bankrupt in the process, as the construction of the buildings was not backed up by a performance bond.
Yeadon said the city has ordinances in place to ensure the buildings can still come down, but much would have to be wrangled over if it ever came to that point.
Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Beier raised concerns over the hotel being erected in "Building A" and whether there were protections in place in case the hotel, The Graduate, could not fulfill its pledge to build.
Yeadon and Pierson both confirmed The Graduate was a partner in the development and had incentive, particularly financially, to ensure the hotel came to fruition. Further, Pierson noted the site plans were designed specifically around The Graduate's standards and amenities.