Center City District Development – Ushering in a New Era for East Lansing

There’s been a great buzz being generated around a major new mixed-use development proposed in the heart of East Lansing. The development team consisting of East Lansing’s own Ballein Family and the Chicago-based developer, Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors are proposing the creation of the Center City District. Housed along Albert and Grand River Ave., Center City District will transform the cultural thoroughfare of East Lansing’s downtown into a pedestrian-focused lifestyle destination.

On April 12, the East Lansing Planning Commission met to consider the site plan for the proposed Center City District project and to decide whether it should recommend this project to the East Lansing City Council. Due to several new questions voiced by the community surrounding this project, and the late hour, the commission was unable to make their decision at that meeting. The project is on the agenda to be discussed at the April 26 Planning Commission meeting. The East Lansing City Council’s public hearing has been rescheduled for May 9.

The Greater Lansing Business Monthly reached out to the development team to address a few of the questions with the hope of helping people understand the economic benefit of the project and the positive impact it will have on the city of East Lansing.

Harbor Bay did a market study based on the idea of a large-scale, mixed-use development which was submitted to the Planning Commission during the March 22 meeting. The study’s findings did indeed confirm the need for strong neighborhoods that are diverse, attractive and safe as outlined in the City of East Lansing’s comprehensive plan. Per Harbor Bay CEO Mark Bell, Target Corporation understands the market and is highly invested, planning to make a long-term commitment to the city.

According to the development team, the project is planned to roll out in phases to minimize disruption to residents, visitors and businesses. Construction is planned to kick off this summer, with project completion as early as summer of 2019. Activities and programs with a festive vibe are planned to make the transition fun and engaging for the community. Examples include a hard hat discount program and other discount coupons offered to draw new and existing customers into the city during the construction; options for restaurants to offer more flexible hours i.e. split shifts scheduled around heavy construction times and temporary dining kiosks in convenient locations to sell their food.

With a project of this size and scope, it is normal for there to be at least some disruption to traffic and parking during construction. According to Bell, the development team has shortened the overall construction schedule by two months, with Albert Ave. road construction being completed within two months. The new parking ramp below the Albert Apartments Tower that will replace the existing Lot #1 will take 12 months to complete. With City cooperation, a partial opening is planned for Sept. 1, 2018. According to city officials and parking consultants, there is ample parking available to accommodate spaces used during construction.

The East Lansing private-public partnership for the Center City District project will create an investment of approximately $130M, which is expected to generate increased revenue to the City, 300+ prevailing wage jobs during this two-year construction phase, as well as 100+ full-time jobs upon project completion. The financing of the project is very unique, whereby the developer is proposing borrowing and providing certain financial guarantees/recourse for the public infrastructure improvements, while

the East Lansing General Fund and Downtown Development Authority will maintain the revenue currently generated by parking lot 1 along with new net revenue generated by additional parking revenue.

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