Downtown Lansing is getting a $40 million investment, one that will bring a grocery store to the district long noted as a "food desert."
The Gillespie Group, a development firm located in the city, is building a hotel and apartment space in addition to the grocery store. Construction will begin in the spring of 2019.
“It’s basically an entire city block on Michigan Avenue, downtown in the Stadium District,” Pat Gillespie, president of the Gillespie Group, said. “The first level will have a 37,00 (square) foot grocery store, it'll be owned and operated by Meijer.”
The working name for the grocery store is Capital City Market, Gillespie said. The market will be located on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Larch Street and is expected to include a deli and fresh produce section.
Gillespie said adding the grocery store is a necessity for downtown because “it’s kind of like a food desert there.”
“We’re excited about the ripple effect this could have for the Michigan Avenue corridor,” Gillespie said.
Lansing Mayor Andy Schor said he was eager for the development because anyone living in the area must currently drive several miles for the groceries they need.
“There’s been a significant interest from residents and visitors and everyone involved in downtown in one way or another to have a grocery store and a hotel, and this project checks off both those boxes,” Schor said. “It’s something that is extremely important when you’re trying to have people live in your downtown and visit your downtown.”
The space where the Capital City Market project will be constructed currently houses a few buildings and a parking lot.
“On weekends and nights, there’s really nothing going on on that corner," Gillespie said. "So once you put in a grocery store and hotel and apartments, it’s going to energize that whole city block -- which means more lights, more people, more density.”
The presence of the hotel and grocery store may bring more bars and restaurants to the area as well. Bob Trezise, President and CEO of the Lansing Area Economic Partnership (LEAP), said the more people living in a walkable radius of the area, the easier it will be to create that nightlife.
“It’s absolutely critical that there is a critical mass of people available in the evenings that can continue to support what is good daytime activity but shift or expand that activity into the nighttime as well,” Trezise said.
The hotel section of the project will have 120 rooms, according to Gillespie, while the apartment complex will have 36 units.
Contractors for the project's construction have not been selected yet, though Gillespie says the company will attempt to use as many local suppliers and contractors as possible. Construction is estimated to finish in 2020.
This development is the latest of several for the stadium district in the past 25 years. Trezise considers these projects to be stepping stones to raise Lansing's economic status.
“Lansing was the same size 70 years ago as Madison (Wisconsin) and Columbus (Ohio) and Indianapolis,” Trezise said. “But our city and our region has lagged behind those even though we have exactly the same assets: a Big Ten university, a capital city, Fortune 500 companies.”
The plan, Trezise said, is to build up Michigan Avenue with tall buildings to change the skyline.
“It’s a psychological impression on people, that we’re growing, that we’re prosperous,” he said.
Editor's note: This story was updated to correct the size of the grocery store. It is 37,000-square-foot store, not 3,700.