City considers application to turn vacant Grand River retail space into apartments

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East Lansing City Council sits in session.

Madison O'Connor

Members of East Lansing’s City Council hear from citizens during a Feb. 26 meeting.

EAST LANSING — East Lansing’s City Council is still considering an application to turn vacant retail space on Grand River Avenue into efficiency apartments.

The plan, if approved by City Council, will take unoccupied spaces originally meant for retail within 300 Grand Apartments and allow the conversion to six efficiency dwellings. Efficiency apartments are essentially studio apartments, where one room typically contains the kitchen, living room and bedroom, with a separate bathroom.

During a Feb. 26 hearing to gather feedback from residents on the application, the council decided to defer the application back to the city’s planning commission to get a recommendation about hours of operation for the retail spaces.

In other words, the council won’t be acting on this soon — but the application is still on the table.

“Given that there’s changes taking place, we should get an additional recommendation from the planning commission,” said East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows. “That would be of value to us.”

The application would modify a special use permit to allow developers to convert the space at 300 W. Grand River Ave., the site of a DTN Management apartment building, 300 Grand Apartments.

Map of Grand River Avenue, highlighting the 300 Grand Apartments.

Madison O'Connor

An application being considered by the city of East Lansing could mean more apartments at 300 Grand Apartments.


The site is east of Hillcrest Avenue, south of Valley Court Park, north of Grand River Avenue and right next to Biggby Coffee.

The building was constructed in 2015 and completed in 2016. According to a staff report from East Lansing’s Department of Planning, Building and Development, the building is a “four-story, mixed-use building with approximately 6,434 square feet of non-residential space.”

It was constructed to hold retail shops on the first floor and residential apartments on the top three floors. The first floor was also built with a drive-through intended for a bank, which roughly splits the first floor in half.

But since its construction, the first-floor commercial spaces have remained largely unoccupied, according to a staff report. The plan proposes converting the western half of the commercial space into six efficiency apartments at roughly 400 square feet each and leaving the other half to existing office use.

Architectural plans depicting the current and proposed floor plans for the first floor of 300 Grand Apartments.

Studio [intrigue] Architects, LLC

Current and proposed plans for the first floor of 300 Grand Apartments. If the East Lansing City Council accepts the proposed plan, retail space could be converted to six studio apartments.


Studio [intrigue] Architects, LLC designed and built the building for DTN Management. If the City Council approves the application, the architecture firm will design and execute the conversion.

Matthew Burks, coordination supervisor at Studio [intrigue] Architects, LLC, said the lack of retailers in the 300 W. Grand River Ave. building is less than ideal.

“But where that building sits, it’s more residential,” Burks said. “Once you get west of Abbot (Road), it’s more commercial than east of Abbot.”

It’s not the first building in the area to lack retailers. Element 903 Apartments, at 903 E. Grand River Ave., is also designed to have retailers on its first floor, but those spaces have remained vacant since the building was created, Burks said.

“I don’t know if it’s just an East Lansing thing or not,” Burks said. “It seems there are a lot more restaurants than there are retailers, though.”

For now, it’s unclear when the council will revisit the application. No dates were set during the motion to send the application back to the city’s planning commission.

Planning commission meetings are held on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. at 54B District Court, 101 Linden St. in East Lansing. City Council meetings are held twice a month at 7 p.m. in the same location.

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