By Nick Barnowski
Lansing Township News
LANSING TWP. – Construction has picked back up on four new complexes located north of the Eastwood Towne Center.
The buildings will be part of The Heights at Eastwood, a public-private project developed by Lansing Township.
Hyatt Place, Marriott Fairfield Inn & Suites and DTN’s The Vista at the Heights are expected to open during the second quarter of 2015, said Steven Hayward, executive director of Lansing Township’s Downtown Development Authority. A Hilton Homewood Suites is slated to open one year later.
Hayward said the complexes will be a crucial addition to both Lansing Township and Eastwood. The township is still seeking to replace 28 percent of its tax base that was associated with the demolition of 2.1 million square feet of General Motors manufacturing facilities in 2007.
“It is important for Eastwood since it adds more sustainability to the existing retailers by introducing additional individuals with discretionary income,” Hayward said.
The Heights project has been in the works since the opening of the Eastwood Towne Center shopping mall in 2002, which was built in part to help replace the lost tax dollars.
“The shopping center itself was very successful,” said Lansing Township Supervisor Kathleen Rodgers. “All the marketing studies that were done indicated that something else north of that shopping center would be very successful.”
Lansing Township took the first step in the public-private partnership. A parking garage, completed in 2012, was built north of the NCG Theatre with bonds offered under federal stimulus packages. The township was one of the few municipalities in Michigan to use them, Hayward said.
Intentions to build north of the shopping center stalled in 2007, five years before construction on the garage began, due to the economic recession. Talks between the township and the private sector remained ongoing, though. Rodgers said the parking garage was the stepping-stone for $52 million in private developments for the Heights.
“It took a while,” she said. “We knew that the parking garage wasn’t going to be standing there alone. We began to get feelers for what could go in around it and underneath it.”
“The public money primed the pump for private investment,” Hayward said. “It was important to come first, and it kept hundreds of construction workers employed during the recession.”
Owners of the new hotels and apartment complex will pay rent on the land, and the income the DDA makes off of the private development will be used to pay the bonds on the parking garage. Rodgers said that space underneath the parking garage will eventually be used for retail and restaurants.
“There’s more to go in,” Rodgers said. “That’s just the beginning. Anything that goes in underneath the parking garage will be rent to the DDA to pay for bonds.”
Lansing Township’s DDA was activated in 2000, a time when Hayward said it was without an “identifier place.” He now believes Eastwood has changed that.
“Since most people in mid-Michigan know what Eastwood is, I think it has begun to accomplish that goal,” he said.
Time will tell just how impactful the three hotels and the apartment complex will be to Eastwood and Lansing Township, but Hayward is already seeing progress.
“Leasing is underway for the area to be a dynamic destination location for entertainment, lodging, events and dining,” Hayward said. “That was the original intent, and I am hopeful that this will be the result.”