By Camille Douglas
Entirely East Lansing
EAST LANSING — The Bailey Community Center will be undergoing renovations to its eastern half in the near future. The East Lansing Planning Commission approved the application at their meeting March 23 to transform the building into a facility with senior housing, day care programs and office spaces.
The application proposed to remove the one-floor eastern portion of the building and add a three-story building complete with 25 new apartments for independent senior citizens, ages 55 and above.
The majority of the first floor of the building will be marketed to a daycare provider and low traffic office uses. A gym will also be built on the first floor and will be preserved for scheduled community uses.
The Capital Area Housing Partnership addressed the proposal to the planning commission during the Aug. 12 meeting last year. The partnership was asked to further assess the market for senior citizens to see if the apartments could be filled before a final approval was made.
East Lansing Community Development Analyst Pablo Majano has been working with the Capital Area Housing Partnership to formulate the layout of the renovations since the beginning of last summer.
“We saw that the community facility of Bailey Community Center wasn’t doing as well as an extra cost for the city and what the residents would like to see,” Majano said. “They wanted to see more senior housing and now have a set project for senior housing in this area.”
The structure, located on 300 Bailey St., has been used as a neighborhood school and for child care services until September 2015 when the center was shut down after the East Lansing City Council voted to close the building in back in January 2015.
The Capital Area Housing Partnership was appointed by city council in June 2015 to head the redevelopment project and work along with PK Development Group, the Bailey community and the city of East Lansing. The total cost of development is estimated to be $8.6 million, with the funding coming from a combination of housing tax credit equity, historic preservation tax credit equity, conventional first mortgage debt and issued grants.
On August 4 of that year, the city council approved that the partnership obtained some exclusive leasing rights to the community center, but the building will remain city-owned.
During the discussion, a main concern among commission members and East Lansing resident Bill Morgan, who lives nearby Bailey Community Center, was how to accommodate the required 51 parking spaces. The center is only estimated to fit only about 40 parking spaces on the property.
Executive Director of Capital Area Housing Partnership Mikki Droste proposed to construct at least ten parking spaces at the Bailey Park across the street. It was estimated that the parking lot will take up at least 70 feet of the park.
Morgan was concerned about how much the public park will be lost to the construction.
“We are going to give up a lot of public space to this, and the majority of it is just turning into a parking lot. We don’t have those opened green spaces, unplanned spaces in our downtown area,” Morgan said. “A number of trees are going to be gone. A lot of playground equipment will be gone. It really is our last central park.”
In response to Morgan’s concern, Droste announced to the commission that the Capital Area Housing Partnership will provide the city $25,000 to replace some of the playground equipment that will be lost in the construction.
“We have promised to the city to improve the park based on the fact that we have created by tapping into it and creating parking spaces,” Droste said.
Before the planning commission, the proposal has received an immense amount of support from the East Lansing Historic District Commission and the Bailey Community Association, which consists of almost 300 residents. Taking into considerations of the public’s favor for the senior-restricted apartments, the commission voted 9-0, approving the renovations of the center.
The next step for the Capital Area Housing Partnership to move along with the development of the new building is to look into a building permit. Until the company receives a building permit, it will remain unclear when construction will begin.
“To me, it seems like there was a great outcry when it was announced that the school would be closing and to figure out what to do with it,” Planning Commission member John Cahill said. “My sense is that the current proposal is probably one of the best uses. I think overall, the community would probably benefit from the current project even if there is some loss of green space.”