Development to add vibrancy to Grand River in 2016

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Boarded up building on Grand River Avenue

The current building at 565 Grand River Ave. has been unused since 2011.

By Jess Todd
Entirely East Lansing

Across the street from the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum is a boarded-up, vacant building. However, 565 E. Grand River Ave. will be redeveloped in 2016 and will add a more modern look to downtown East Lansing.

Developers David Krause and Douglas Cron had their application for an $8 million, five-story mixed-use building approved by the East Lansing City Council on Sept. 15. The new building will feature retail space on the first floor along with apartments on all of the floors above. Although construction has yet to start, it is already causing excitement.

“It addresses a lot of different goals within our town plans as well as a lot of things I hear anecdotally within the community,” said Lori Mullins, East Lansing community and economic development administrator. “It opens up the opportunity for some other great retailers to come to the downtown area,” Mullins said.

The building has been vacant since May 2011, when National Coney Island closed. According to Mullins, the property owners were reluctant to sign any long-term lease with any retailers and the building itself has some structural problems.

“It is outdated and a challenge site, with the building being designed for Taco Bell a while ago,” said Mullins. “The site also has some contamination issues,” Mullins said.

The issues at the current site include lead and asbestos. However, the East Lansing City Council devised a way to reimburse the developers for the work that will be done to fix the contamination. Included in the approval of the redevelopment proposal is a Brownfield Plan.

“What the plan does is it provides the developer a way to get reimbursed for certain developments,” said Tim Dempsey, director of East Lansing Planning, Building and Development. “In this case, costs for demolition, lead and asbestos, special site prep, and an expanded sideway for mini public plaza will be covered,” Dempsey said.

One of the driving factors in getting the plan approved was the potential for more residential and retail space in the downtown area.

According to East Lansing Community Development Analyst Pablo Majano, the development will be much more beneficial to businesses in the area compared to what is there now. It will also bring more people to live in the downtown area.

“There’s a really big market for people interested in living downtown, which is on the transit line and close to campus,” said Mullins. “That desirability is growing and this gives people more choices of places to live,” Mullins said.
With nearly all of the available property space filled in the downtown area, openings are hard to come by. But, the redevelopment will create this opportunity for new tenants along the main stretch of Grand River Avenue.

“This is a big investment in our community,” said Mullins. “But, we think that this type of investment will encourage more like it and serve as a catalyst for this growth in the downtown area. It’s going to set a standard for development along Grand River,” Mullins said.

Both Mullins and Dempsey say this is a good project for this time in East Lansing and that the new building will add more vibrancy to the downtown area. No official dates have been set for the start of construction. However, Dempsey estimates that it will be some time in the spring of 2016 and will take about 10 months to complete.

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