City Council votes unanimously to terminate relationship with Strathmore for City Center II
The corner of Abbott Rd. and Grand River Ave. is the proposed site for the City of East Lansing development project City Center II. The East Lansing City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night not to enter into a development agreement with Strathmore Development Co. concerning City Center II.
East Lansing City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night not to enter into a development agreement with Strathmore Development Co. concerning City Center II.
Planning and Community Development Director Tim Dempsey presented the completed due diligence report to council during a special meeting, after which he recommended that the project was not economically feasible for the city to take on at this time.
“We don’t think that the project is in a position to have us have a great enough comfort level to support the debt necessary to make this project work,” he said during the meeting.
The proposed $105 million project would have brought a 10-story mixed use building housing a 400-seat performing arts center, retail and office space, restaurants, residential units and a boutique hotel. Another four-story mixed-use building with retail or restaurant space and residential or office units would have been built along the north, along with 400-space parking structure built along Evergreen Ave. to serve City Center II.
Dempsey paraphrased a communication from Strathmore Development Co. President Scott Chappelle received earlier in the day, which indicated Chappelle asked to withdraw from the project completely and agreed it was not in the best interests of either party to continue with the project at this time. Chappelle’s communication also showed appreciation to the city for working to complete the project, and requested termination of the due diligence process and “essentially end this project as it’s currently designed.”
Although Chappelle withdrew from the project earlier in the day, the council’s vote effectively put the final nail in the coffin of Strathmore’s involvement with the project.
As Dempsey concluded his presentation, applause broke out from audience members before Mayor Diane Goddeeris quieted the crowd.
Following the outburst, Mayor Pro Tem Nathan Triplett proposed a motion that the project be ruled financially infeasible and that continued involvement in it would pose a substantial risk to the city.
“Councilmember (Don) Power and I have had several discussions about making decisions driven by the data,” he said. “As to these threshold items, we have data sufficient to show that it is not in the city’s interests to move forward with this project.”
The report outlined several key factors about entering into an agreement with Strathmore, including the estimated Tax Increment Financing revenue generated by the project, city debt and revenue generated from the proposed parking garage. The report was compiled by property appraisal firm Oetzel-Hartman, and indicated the project would require a $65 million investment from the city while generating an assessed net worth of $33 million.
It also ran through four potential scenarios in which the city would assume an annual increase in taxable value between .5 percent and 2 percent — all of which were estimated to not have produced sustainable revenue to continue forward with the project.
Power acknowledged that the project caused considerable headaches for the city, but opted instead to look at the experience as one to learn from.
“Every experience in life has wounds,” Power said. “They’re not to be fatal, but how to learn and move forward.”
As Chappelle still owns the property, he now has the option to either sell, or re-submit another development plan.
“You can’t move forward with the project (as it stands), but I applaud Mr. Chappelle for having confidence in our city and wanting to invest in the city,” Loomis said. “He put a lot of time and effort, struggled with a poor economy, at the end he came to the same conclusion.
“The right decision is being made here. We do have to go forward.”