City Center II decision delayed yet again

The East Lansing City Council once again put off making a decision on the future of the controversial City Center II project during a special meeting Tuesday night.

The council deferred its decision on a predevelopment agreement for the project until next Tuesday, after requesting more time during last Tuesday’s council meeting to examine additional documents related to the project.

The redevelopment project would bring a theater, restaurants, a hotel and office and retail space to the area near the Grand River Avenue and Abbot Road intersection.

The project is expected to cost $105 million, according to draft documents presented to the council last week by Scott Chappelle, president of project developer Strathmore Development Co.

Next week, the council might approve the predevelopment agreement, which would provide the city with either 60 days or 75 days to complete due diligence of all financial documents related to City Center II.

If approved next week, the predevelopment agreement also would allow demolition to start at one of the parcels of property, a building located at 303 N. Abbot Road, as approved by the city’s Downtown Development Authority.

Demolition would extend the project’s site plan and special use permit, East Lansing City Attorney Dennis McGinty said.

The site plan and special use permit are set to expire April 6, and any demolition would need to start before that date to extend both documents.

Councilmember Don Power said the city must tread carefully when completing its due diligence and said he wants to define a clear solution for the future of City Center II.

“Once and for all, let’s solve it,” he told council during the meeting.

If financing comes through, the project appears to be closer to fruition than in previous years.

Draft documents presented last week by Chappelle show that the developer obtained $50 million in private construction financing from an unnamed investment bank, and also state the Michigan Economic Development Corp. had recently expressed a willingness to contribute $7 million in additional funding to the project.

Chappelle said Strathmore will work with city staff to be fully transparent during the future steps in the process.

“There’s nothing that’s out of bounds,” Chappelle said at the meeting. “We look forward to that process continuing.”

Should the city decide to part ways with the project in the coming months, the future of the site is up in the air.

“We have not entertained alternative uses (for the project site),” Planning and Community Development Director Tim Dempsey said at the meeting.

East Lansing resident Eliot Singer decried the project and urged the council to reconsider previous financial problems with the project and the developer.

“You need to do real due diligence, and that means not whitewashing this history,” Singer said.

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