Record year for developments An estimated $1 billion to be invested in Lansing this year

Over the past year or so, the Lansing area has been awash with multiple large development projects that are helping to strengthen its economic health via an estimated $1 – $2 billion in investments. These planned developments are expected to provide much-needed new jobs and housing, as well as expand and improve businesses and industries and encourage entrepreneurs to look to Michigan for their next location.

“Lansing is one of the best spots in the country based on value, opportunity and quality of life and is continuing to get better year-over-year,” said Brent Forsberg, president of T.A. Forsberg, Inc., a residential and commercial development firm in mid-Michigan. 

He has been an active leader in the real estate industry for over 18 years. 

“It took us 70 years of slow and sometimes stagnant growth to become who we were 15 years ago, and now our community is vibrant again,” Forsberg said.

With all the projects already being constructed, as well as those in planning, it’s expected that the best is yet to come.

“The years 2017 to 2019 have the potential to be the biggest construction years in Lansing area history, investment wise,” said Bob Trezise, president and CEO of the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP). “The projects announced so far range from an agricultural project to manufacturing plants to institutional and mixed-use buildings, and some with hotels.”

LEAP’s mission is to retain, expand and attract business, create more and better paying jobs for families in the covered region and increase revenue for local government and schools. 

Upcoming Projects Leading Lansing Area to Increased Successes

Trezise listed some of the projects LEAP has been involved with including a $132-million Center City District mixed-use project in downtown East Lansing, developed by Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors, which will significantly upgrade the downtown area into something more competitive with other Big Ten university cities across the Midwest. 

Another huge endeavor expected to be completed over the next year or so is the continuation of improvements along Michigan Avenue, such as a $300 million Red Cedar Renaissance project, and the new Arcadia Ales & Smokehouse. The $90 million SkyVue Apartments, a 824-bed wrap-style, mixed-use community built next to Frandor Shopping Center on Michigan Avenue, just opened in August.

Several other planned developments included in the record total are a more than $60 million Forsberg Okemos Pointe development project along Jolly Road in Meridian Township, Michigan State University’s (MSU) mixed-use village at Harrison and Kalamazoo, discussions on a proposed project to replace the Lansing City Hall and the much anticipated $154 million Park District project in downtown East Lansing.

There are also various other projects planned for Delta Township at Canal Road and West Saginaw, Eastwood Towne Center, Charlotte, Mason and other nearby communities across the tri-county area. 

Area Investments Leading to an Historic Moment for Region

“In all, counting the LEAP projects and non-LEAP projects, as well as those that are both unannounced and announced, we could see a historic moment for our region in construction totaling $1.5 – $2 billion in new construction,” said Trezise. He added that all these improvements in the area will help toward “tipping the region toward the big metropolitan city area it deserves and needs to be.”

Trezise stressed the importance of all the projects both announced and those that are expected in the future and stressed that the Lansing area needs to “look like a big metropolitan city and region, or we will not be able to keep and attract talent, and then we will not be able to keep and attract the newest kinds of businesses.” He added that LEAP is trying to “create a three-county community of choice to keep and attract the greatest diversity of both people and businesses as possible.” 

The Gillespie Group also has several projects either going on or in the planning stages. These include their third mixed-use building, which is starting construction this fall and Marketplace, a Phase II mixed-use building to be completed in 2018 along the riverfront. The Gillespie Company also previously publicized a new expansion project in the 2200 block of Michigan Avenue, just east of their Eastown Flats project.

Michigan Becoming Popular State for Startups

“Thanks to groups like MSU, LEAP, the Chamber and others, our area is also a hub for startups and high-tech innovation,” said Forsberg. “Our region is rocking at fostering our local businesses, attracting new ones and helping startups become mature companies.”

According to the 2017 Michigan Venture Capital Association Annual Research Report that came out on April 11, MVCA invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the state. Records show that 54 startups netted the state more than $220 million dollars from venture capital investments in 2016, which was a 42 percent increase over the past five years. These and other existing startups in Michigan are bringing in billions of dollars.

Lansing Transforming into a Better Place for All

These projects and others are part of transforming the Lansing area into a better known place in both the state and the country, according to Forsberg. “Lansing’s greatest need is identity and a sense of belonging or inclusion,” said Forsberg. “Projects such as Pat Gillespie’s work in the Stadium District and Scott Gillespie’s projects on the Michigan Avenue corridor are part of that, along with the Dymaxions micro-units on Artist’s Avenue, Eyde’s Knapp’s Centre — a mix of commercial, living and professional offices — offer unique living opportunities not available here 10 years ago.”

Many of the ongoing projects were the result of several years of planning by developers. Forsberg believes the area is in for a few more good years of growth for several reasons; one reason being that unemployment rates in Lansing are low: 3.8 percent in 2016 compared to a state average of 5 percent that same year.

“Developers are needed in the region in part to replace functionally obsolete housing stock that’s no longer habitable from age and lack of upkeep, or disaster i.e. fires, flood[s],” said Forsberg. “Development is also needed in direct correlation to population growth. When we have the growth in jobs higher than the drop in unemployment, we need more housing. Depending on which study you read, the need for our region is between 5,000 to 10,000 units in the next five years, and we will watch this closely.”

Forsberg said that their projects are focused on what is known as the ‘missing middle’. This means that they’re working toward a goal to reach an attainable housing market, which would be housing priced at 80 percent to 120 percent of the median income. 

Plus, it includes work to build stronger connections between neighborhoods by stitching multimodal transportation plans around traditional, autocentric street designs to foster stronger neighborhoods and allow for more human-scaled development around the downtown core. 

“The idea comes from Andres Duaney’s 10-minute neighborhood pattern,” said Forsberg. “This is the idea that people are willing to walk five minutes or less to get to services they need for living without getting into their car.” 

Lansing Developers Look to the Future

The city of Lansing is reaching new heights, and its planners and developers are looking to maintain growth in the future. Forsberg stated that they’re also working on fostering art, makers groups and other small community businesses within future projects, and that they’re working with the city, Lansing Board of Water & Light and MSU in future projects that will look at energy efficiency and neighborhood connections differently in the next few years. They’re also continuously keeping track of upcoming trends going on in the rest of the country via websites like strongtowns.org

“We still have a lot of work to do and issues that can be improved, however, so does every other metropolitan and rural community in the world,” said Forsberg. “I choose to focus on our wins in our messaging. We will continue to improve the quality of life for the entire region by working on the hard issues of poverty, race, mental health and schools, building a trust and a bond at the neighborhood level, and keep improving our community one bootstrap at a time.”

All in all, things are looking up for the Greater Lansing area in many ways, because of the hard work and dedication of all the people and organizations that are planning and completing the above projects — through these ventures, the area is becoming more vibrant, sought after and successful, both now and into the future.

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