Pat Gillespie Brings Growth and Innovation to Lansing
It would ring of hype if it weren’t true. The Gillespie Group is changing the face of Lansing and has been since 1994.
Led by founder and President Pat Gillespie, the company is populating the city with eye-catching, bold apartment buildings. Its commercial developments stress design and function, downtown and out-town. They mirror a city that is changing, a transformation that Gillespie is helping to bring about.
Reflecting his influence, community engagement and business success, the Greater Lansing Business Monthly named Gillespie its Entrepreneur of the Year. Chosen from 10 candidates by a panel of judges, the award recognizes his unique level of leadership in the greater
“Among many competitors, over many years, good and bad economic times, this entrepreneur has set himself apart,” Publisher Tiffany Dowling said announcing the award. “From the very beginning, this entrepreneur has been at the forefront of each project. His approach is simple: Dream big and reach higher. He has worked hard to position the company as a community problem solver and the go-to team. They specialize in creative urban development and revitalizing communities.”
Gillespie called the award a reminder that his company is long established by now, and serves an important role in helping transform Lansing.
“I’m humbled by it,” he said. “Growing up in Lansing, you would pick up Greater Lansing Business Monthly and see stories about local entrepreneurs. I would wonder if I could be like them some day.”
In selecting Gillespie for the award, the magazine highlighted the new life and energy his developments bring to communities in Lansing. And it noted his commitment to growth and change.
“He is motivated to invest in this community by opening new doors and always asking, ‘Why not Lansing?’” Dowling said.
There is no better example of these in Lansing than Gillespie’s Marketplace, Midtown and Outfield projects.
Gillespie has often spoken of the areas prevailing architecture as beige, even boring. His most recent rental buildings address that with colors that demand attention: red, blue, purple, lilac, tangerine and avocado.
He acknowledged that his buildings are attention-getters, seen as both positive and negative. But he added that what may seem radical in Lansing is well-established architecture in other parts of the country.
“We go to Nashville or Columbus or Madison and look at these kinds of buildings. They’re cool and there are lots of them. We may be the first one in this region to do them, but why not borrow some of the things that are working in the progressive regions of the country.”
His newest buildings fill up quickly, mostly with young professionals or older students. And it’s his projects like Marketplace, which is adjacent to the Lansing City Market, Midtown on Michigan Avenue near the Lansing/East Lansing city line and the Stadium District opposite Cooley Law School Stadium that have lured renters back into the city. He estimates his projects have brought between 250 and 300 people into city neighborhoods. And that’s before the Outfield project – scheduled to open in April – brings another hundred to downtown, he said.
The Outfield may be Gillespie’s most innovative project has gotten national attention.
Nearly completed, the five-story building overlooking the playing field has 84 units, many of them with ballpark views. Residents – and very likely, friends – will be able to watch baseball games or entertainment staged in the stadium from their living rooms. In addition, there is a common area that is open to all Gillespie Group tenants.
“I wish the project were bigger,” Gillespie said of the Outfield. “Initially, we were nervous. Are people going to want to live with the lights, noise and sounds?”
Apparently they are. Of the 84 units, 45 already are leased, with only two apartments remaining on the ballpark side. Gillespie has met with officials of another nearby minor league baseball team to explore a similar project in their outfield and there are other clubs that want to visit once the project is complete.
“It may be a real niche for our company,” he said.
Less flashy, but also important to the Gillespie Group are its commercial projects. For these, Gillespie has an approach grounded in economics, business and social progress that are attractive and functional. He expects his commercial and multi-use projects to be pedestrian-friendly, ecologically sensitive and architecturally distinctive. He also wants them to be acceptable to the communities that surround them.
“We are ambassadors for Lansing,” Gillespie said of his company’s philosophy. “Our commitment, whether with our buildings and how we treat people, is to get people to look at Lansing in a more positive and progressive way.”
Community is important. Gillespie is a local guy: He grew up on Foster Street, attended Resurrection School, Lansing Catholic High School and graduated from Michigan State University. Even as a teenager he wanted a career in real estate and leasing. He recalled that he would talk to local developers and ask about their business, their career decisions and their mistakes.
They encouraged him to follow his passion. He did, and today he has more than 70 employees, projects in eight Michigan communities and a portfolio of properties awaiting development.
This is why he is Greater Lansing Business Monthly’s Entrepreneur of the Year.