A recent rash of redevelopments might frustrate East Lansing residents for the foreseeable future, but the city is aiming to make things a little easier by rolling out a resource to limit the confusion.
East Lansing Buzz is a website and informational program meant to guide residents through a busy redevelopment period. The program revolves around three main projects: Park District, The Hub and Center City.
It isn’t as if the city’s growth will come easily — all three of the projects straddle Grand River Avenue, East Lansing’s main drag. While the projects will continue to complicate the downtown area until they are completed, the city has brought some fun to the ordeal with Find the Bee activities.
There are two separate bees to find. The first is a photo of the bee mascot which is hung up weekly in a local restaurant — or three, as was the case last week.
The location is revealed every Monday on the Downtown East Lansing Facebook page, and residents can post a picture with the bee on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #BeeDowntownEL to be entered into a drawing. The winner will get a $100 gift card to the restaurant where they took the picture.
“If this is a successful campaign, we are looking to consider extending it through the summer months,” Community Development and Engagement Manager Amy Schusler-Schmitt said. “We have a lot of support from the downtown restaurants for this.”
The second bee to find is on a special parking meter bag. The city will put the bag on various meters on a random day every week, and any meter with the bag on it means free parking from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. for anyone who claims it.
The East Lansing Buzz program also provides information for businesses most likely to be impacted by the construction. A construction guide for businesses offers tips on how to avoid any potential loss of customers as a result of the redevelopment and stay updated on construction efforts.
The city is also offering a discount on parking validation to downtown businesses. The city will hand out up to $100 per month in parking validation vouchers for each business adjacent to construction efforts, Schusler-Schmitt said.
The program, which has seen approximately $33,000 spent on marketing and parking initiatives so far, has satisfied city officials in terms of resident participation. There have been nearly 400,000 impressions on the city social media accounts about East Lansing Buzz, Schusler-Schmitt said.
Yet the city still would be happy to see even more, Community and Economic Development Administrator Thomas Fehrenbach said.
“It would always be better to have more, because it really is a regular channel of information that we’re sending out,” Fehrenbach said.
Councilmember Shanna Draheim lauded the collaboration of city officials, developers and residents on the website and informational programs.
“This is a great project — downtown is great, and we really want it to be successful and celebrate those successes that get us through the tough construction period,” Draheim said. “I think it’s fantastic.”
Work has begun on the second story of the Center City project, and concrete is expected to poured into place as soon as weather allows, according to East Lansing Buzz.
Eastbound Albert Avenue has been closed to all traffic. Construction on Center City is scheduled to finish up early next year, with the whole project expected to wrap up in August 2019.
Construction of the Hub will affect traffic around Cedar Village for quite a while. Excavation at the Hub project site has already begun.
As a result, Cedar Street has been closed at Grand River Avenue, as well as the easternmost lane of northbound Bogue at Grand River. These closures are scheduled to be in place until June 2019.
The Park District plan is current and former owners did not reach an agreement about a Michigan Business Tax credit which had been previously awarded to the owner of the old buildings on the property. Those buildings have since been demolished.
This lack of agreement forced the previously approved development plan to undergo revisions; revised plans have yet to be unveiled.
“We’re still waiting for (the developers) to provide a formal submission to us,” East Lansing Director of Planning, Building and Development Tim Dempsey said. “We know that they’ve been working on some concepts, but we haven’t had any formal application yet.”