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Despite property issues, East Village plans move forward

October 8, 2008

Students might say goodbye to the Cedar Village apartments, and hello to a cinema, riverside park and various forms of entertainment, according to renderings for the proposed East Village project unveiled Wednesday.

“The renderings provide more detail than what we expected at this point, which we’re really happy to see,” said Lori Mullins, senior project manager for East Lansing.

According to the renderings, the ground floor of the proposed $750 million project will contain retail, restaurants and entertainment venues, including a 16-plex cinema, a 50,000 square-foot sports grill and a 1,000-1,200 capacity live theater.

The second floor will contain more entertainment, such as a piano bar and dance club, along with housing. The third floor will be entirely condominiums and student housing.

“I think it is a good idea and that it would draw people to East Lansing, as long as (the city doesn’t) get rid of student housing,” economics senior Jenny Mast said. “If there’s less student housing, that creates a problem of where you’re going to put the people you pushed out of there.”

However, the project, which will stretch between Grand River Avenue, Bogue Street and the Red Cedar River, could replace existing student housing, such as the Cedar Village apartments, but will not leave students without a place to live, said Ginny Haas, director of community relations for MSU.

“The expectation is that there will actually be more student housing in the plan,” she said. “But because the density is going to be so much greater … (it) will be combined with some for-sale housing and some kinds of rental housing.”

Pierce Education Properties doesn’t own any of the land in the East Village and is going ahead with the project, despite concern from some land holders. For the project to happen, the company would need to acquire the land, which is primarily owned by DTN Management Co. and several other companies and individuals.

There will be 1,500 beds for undergraduate students, 300 graduate student units and 200 condominium units, said Fred Pierce, president and CEO of Pierce Education Properties.

The next step for the developers is to acquire the property for the 25-acre project.

“As of (now), we’re in dialogue with virtually every property owner in the site area,” Pierce said.

The developers plan to offer either participation in the project, or purchase of the land, he said.

This process has been ongoing, but very slow, said Colin Cronin, area director of student properties for DTN.

“We had a little sit down with Fred Pierce (and his company) probably three months ago, but we hadn’t heard from them in almost a year (before that),” he said.

Cronin said he has not met with Pierce since then.

Nancy Kurdziel, president of Prime Housing Group, which owns seven buildings in the East Village area and one building within the specific project, said her company is not selling its properties.

“There’s nothing to negotiate, but we’ll be redeveloping on our own,” she said. “It’s interesting to see him putting together proposals for property he doesn’t own.”

In addition to acquiring property, between 60 and 65 percent of the land must be pre-leased by tenants in order to get financing commitments for construction, which is expected to begin in 2010 and last three years, Pierce said.

“(Therefore), we expect conversations with tenants to commence before the end of the year,” he said.

Students and East Lansing residents can see and comment on the project’s renderings on the city’s Web site, www.cityofeastlansing.com.

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