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LMich Jun 10, 2011 9:46 AM

This article discusses the ins-and-outs of trying to operate food trucks here in Metro Lansing, with the local ordinances not having exactly kept up with the trends:

Nina Santucci and Anthony Maiale of The Purple Carrot food truck in East Lansing. (Tricia Bobeda | Lansing State Journal)

Mobile resaurants on the move in Lansing, East Lansing

Tricia Bobeda | Lansing Noise

June 9, 2011

Nina Santucci and Anthony Maiale of The Purple Carrot Food Truck are taking working in close quarters to a new level.

The couple's been dating for six years and have worked together in restaurants nearly all that time.

Before moving to Michigan, she was a general manager and he was the chef of a Philadelphia restaurant.

"We were there 70 hours a week but there were days when I wouldn't see him all day because we were in completely different parts of the restaurant," Santucci said. "Now I'm a foot apart from him."

"And she's in my kitchen," Maiale said.

The East Lansing couple opened a mobile restaurant in May, inspired by the popularity of food trucks in other cities.

"I had lived in Austin (Texas) and they have a ton of food trucks there," Santucci said. "It's such a fun idea. It's so cool to be able to go up to a truck and get some gourmet fare that's cheap and casual."

The couple hopes to build a customer base using the food truck so they can afford to open a permanent restaurant in the Lansing area.


Jesse Hahn has a similar goal. After years of working in the kitchens of larger restaurants around the state, Hahn was ready to start cooking his way, and opened a mobile restaurant this spring.

His kitchen is in a trailer and he pulls it with his truck, which inspired the restaurant's name, Trailer Park'd.

"We're trying to help move the food scene forward," Hahn said. "There's some good restaurants here, but there's not really anybody doing farm to table.


City officials are updating language for concessionaire's licensing and then the East Lansing City Council will have to approve the new ordinance.

"We don't want to discourage people from going through the process because our language is confusing," Schmitt said. "We're trying to streamline the process."

The policies determine how, when and where a food truck or trailer could operate. As part of the licensing, the mobile restaurants have to pass health department inspections.

"Of course you're going to get different opinions across the table from business owners and the downtown development authority but I think overall they see it as a positive thing," Schmitt said. "I think things like that have been proven in other communities (and) have the potential to bring people downtown to go to other businesses as well."

Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope said food trucks and trailers can get transient merchant permits to operate in the city and need to get each location approved before serving food.

"There is a requirement for transient merchants that they cannot be in any location within 300 feet of a permanent business dealing in the same goods," Swope said.

That means a food truck selling tacos couldn't get a permit to open next door to a Mexican restaurant.

Hahn is disappointed he hasn't been able to get a permit to set up in downtown Lansing.

I'm a bit surprised how inflexible the local governments have been in allowing these things in more high-pedestrian-traffic urban districts in the city's downtowns. Sounds like something that needs to be changed, and quickly.

Rizzo Jun 10, 2011 1:14 PM

Heck, you want inflexible? Take a look at Chicago's ordinances for food trucks. They've been working for years to get the language worked out. They get insanely detailed. When I go out to Venice Beach, CA they've had problems with too many food trucks and groups of people overflowing into the streets. So many would converge that they would create traffic jams and block businesses. They'd hire people to pay and park their cars in spaces for 12 hours to hold spots (dibs are highly illegal in most cities now).

Doubt the problem in Lansing would get that severe, but it certainly made Ann Arbor nervous and I remember it took the city quite some time to get the ordinance perfect.

subterranean Jun 10, 2011 1:53 PM

My favorite: El Oasis! Love the stuff.

Also, we have a new food truck/trailer at the Allen Street Farmers' Market called "Trailer Park'd: Slow Fast Food":
trailerparkd by With Any Luck, on Flickr

I haven't tried it yet, but people say it's good.

LMich Jun 10, 2011 11:39 PM

El Oasis is the best. BTW, Trailer Park'd was mentioned in the article. I haven't seen them, nor Purple Carrot, but I'd like to find out what they are about, for sure.

I'd like to city experiment with letting them on the plaza outside of Olds Park (Cooley Law School Stadium) during gamedays if they are skeptical of letting them on Washington in downtown Lansing or Albert in downtown East Lansing.

LMich Jun 14, 2011 10:18 AM

More sprawl. What's newsworthy is that Meijer held off building the store for five years:


Meijer coming to Bath Township

Melissa Domsic | Lansing State Journal

June 14, 2011

BATH TWP. - Site preparation work is under way on a new Meijer Inc. store, nearly five years after the big-box chain first announced its plans.

Walker-based Meijer delayed construction during the recession but is now gearing up to break ground on the 156,000-square-foot supermarket-general merchandise store on Saginaw Street just west of Marsh Road.

It's slated to open in April or May 2012, spokesman Frank Guglielmi said.

The project, which has been in the works since 2006, drew criticism early on from neighbors who said it would bring too much traffic and lower their property values.

Augusta Pelosi, who lives on nearby Coleman Road, has mixed feelings.

She said having the supermarket-general merchandise store nearby would be convenient to have it nearby, but she prefers smaller stores that don't disrupt the landscape.

"This area is relatively quiet and I think it's going to be affected," said Pelosi, 37. "There's going to be more noise and more cars. There's nothing we can do about it."


At 156,000 square feet, the store will be about 30 percent smaller than its larger stores such as the 220,000-square-foot Okemos location. Meijer in 2006 said the Bath Township location would span more than 207,000 square feet.

The smaller layout was first unveiled in 2008 and is used in some newer stores, including those in Petoskey and Gaylord, Guglielmi said. The general merchandise section of the store is smaller than the typical Meijer.

I hadn't know that they were doing anything more to Maguire Park in south Lansing. I'll have to go down and see it, sometime. Haven't been southern trail since last year.

Tina Houghton, of the Lansing City Council 2nd Ward, speaks at the dedication ceremony of Maguire Park on Monday afternoon. / Matthew Dae Smith/For the Lansing State Journal

Maguire Park upgrades add finishing touch to River Trail

Laura Misjak | Lansing State Journal

June 14, 2011

Joggers, bicyclists and roller bladers glided past the newly constructed pavilion at Maguire Park Monday as officials applauded the park's completion along with the southern-most segment of the River Trail.

The final detail - a "Lansing River Trail" seal - was applied to a large arch marking the southern end of the trail, near Jolly and Aurelius roads.

"We know the River Trail has become a defining characteristic of Lansing," said Mayor Virg Bernero. "And it just got a lot better."

The final section of the River Trail opened about two years ago, but improvements to Maguire Park, such as a state-of-the-art playscape, rain garden, pavilion, arch and final landscaping touches, were finalized last year and this spring.

City officials first approached Joe Maguire, president and CEO of Wolverine Development Corp., in 2002 to ask for a possible easement on the property that is now part of 12-acre Maguire Park.

"We said, 'We're not just giving you an easement, we'll give you the entire property to do a park here," said Maguire, whose family previously donated land for the original beginnings of the River Trail.

Maguire donated the 12 acres, which was appraised at about $600,000, and paid for design, signage, the arch and more for $30,000.

"We really wanted to call attention to the River Trail," Maguire said. "You don't just see it if you're driving by. The final piece of the puzzle was the arch."

Kellie Dean, president of Dean Transportation, also donated a chunk of land to complete the trail. The pavilion and playscape were purchased with the city's park millage money.


The River Trail and park should inspire residents to step outdoors and cure "nature deficit disorder," Bernero said.

"It's really breathtaking. You have to take a step back and pinch yourself to say, 'My gosh, we're in south Lansing,'" he said. "What a tremendous asset. Now all we've got to do is push Lansing folks and residents to come out and see it."
In other news, the council has approved the brownfield plan for the 224-unit Reutter Park Place apartment building at the southwest corner of Reutter Park, and also the brownfield plan for the mixed-use building at Michigan & Marshall discussed on the last page.

LMich Jun 21, 2011 9:46 AM

Didn't see this coming. Apparently, the city and township already have an idea of what they are going to do with LCA Verlinden on the far westside:


Bernero seeks federal aid for two Lansing projects

By Barbara Wieland | The Lansing State Journal

June 21, 2011

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is in Washington, D.C., today trying to line up federal help for development projects at a former General Motors Co. factory site and the REO Town district near downtown.

Bernero plans to talk with Obama administration officials about assistance to transform the site of the former GM plant on Verlinden Street into a "green" manufacturing park. The site had been known as Fisher Body and the Lansing Car Assembly body plant at various points before it went out of production in 2005. The factory has since been torn down.

Bernero also wants to make improvements in REO Town, including upgrades to sidewalks, lighting and other streetscape features to be made in tandem with street work on South Washington Avenue. The improvements will be made as the Lansing Board of Water & Light continues construction of a $182 million co-generation power plant in REO Town that began in late May.


For the Verlinden project, the city is seeking additional federal funds to create an environmentally conscious manufacturing park. The city already has been granted $5 million from a federal trust to clean up the site and an additional grant application for "a couple million dollars" is in the works to further rework the site, said Bob Trezise, president and CEO of the Lansing Economic Development Corp.

"Part of our big vision is to make an 'ecotech park' or green manufacturing zone on the site," Trezise said. "Naturally, we need to extend the infrastructure to make it happen, which means a road, a nice archway and environmental features such as solar panels."

The site would be home to companies that manufacture environmentally friendly goods. The park itself would be earth-friendly, Trezise said.


Work on the project could begin as early as this fall, and two interested manufacturers have already talked with the city about locating there. Trezise declined to name the companies.


REO Town upgrades

Chad Gamble, director of public service for the city of Lansing, said the city is seeking a $500,000 grant that would reduce car lanes and add a bicycle lane. The project would cost a total of $2.3 million.

"This is an unbelievable and transformational project that would make this a destination," Gamble said. "It all translates to the bottom line of the city."

Gamble said a decision on the grant should come in the fall.

BTW, looks like the draft plan for Lansing's latest masterplan is out, Design Lansing. It's a 192 pages, but very interesting and detailed. I think it's the first full masterplan of the city since the 50's.

LMich Jun 27, 2011 11:40 AM

Far from the epitome of urbanity, East Village begins to rise again in the inner-city at the former Boy's Training School Site in the near-eastside. Started in 2004, the project went into foreclosure some years back after probably less than a quarter of the units were built. Resurrected by a different developer (Allen Edwin Homes) in 2010, construction - under a different design - began anew a few months ago with already nearly two dozen housing starts. Here's some of the new stuff:

The plan consists of multi-family units fronting Saginaw Street - almost all of which have already been constructed - and single-family homes and condos throughout most of the site. The siteplan could have been way better, and that this isn't mixed use is a crime, but 100+ units of housing on regular city-sized lots going up right now isn't a bad thing.

ColDayMan Jun 27, 2011 2:34 PM

Those are terrible. They could've at least added an alley/garage combo.

subterranean Jun 27, 2011 4:10 PM

Colday--the worst part about it is that I live in the neighborhood backed up to this one. My neighborhood is a walkable/traditional neighborhood built around the turn of the 20th Century. This new development is walled off from everything around it on three sides, with no connecting streets. It's a complete and utter shame considering it's virtually downtown. But I guess the folks who would buy into this type of development probably would want it that way. Our planning department should never have allowed it.

ColDayMan Jun 27, 2011 8:06 PM

Ugh, that's a shame. This should've been an extension of the neighborhood, not a cul-de-sac.

LMich Jun 28, 2011 4:10 AM

It is pretty terrible, but comparing it to similar types of developments, it actually could have been a lot worse. I mean, look at University Park Estates in Flint. Giant-assed lots, even larger set backs...I guess the only redeeming thing about this is that the lots are city-sized, and that unlike the former mentioned estates, East Village doesn't replace a historically gridded residential neighborhood, rather, an old reformitory campus. A lot of times in this type of suburban developments in the middle of established urban area try to literally recreate suburbia down to even platting larger lots. At least in this case they made them build multi-family buildings along with these and put the homes of regular-sized lots.

In reality, they should have called for even more multi-family buildings, included neighborhood retail somewhere within the development, and pushed the existing grib through. Though, they'd have only been able to push the street grid in through from the north side of this, only, since the rest of this area of the city is superblock parkland and school campuses.

Older photos of the development:

uaarkson Jun 28, 2011 5:55 AM

Everyone involved in this development should be castrated.

subterranean Jun 28, 2011 2:09 PM

Despite the superblock, I still think the connectivity could have been GREATLY improved. Sure, the blocks could have been extended south from the adjoining neighborhood to the north. But you could also come in from multiple access points to the east and west. I also think they could have created a pedestrian access point from the neighborhood to the south, as illustrated in red below.

Rizzo Jun 29, 2011 1:42 AM


Originally Posted by subterranean (Post 5331112)
Despite the superblock, I still think the connectivity could have been GREATLY improved. Sure, the blocks could have been extended south from the adjoining neighborhood to the north. But you could also come in from multiple access points to the east and west. I also think they could have created a pedestrian access point from the neighborhood to the south, as illustrated in red below.

That would have been nice. And if thru traffic was an issue, they could install speed bumps and mini roundabouts, or whatever those intersections are called with an obstruction in the center of them.

LMich Jul 7, 2011 9:46 AM

Image courtesy of Strathmore Development Co.

Hotel back on for City Center II

By Melissa Domsic | Lansing State Journal

July 6, 2011

EAST LANSING - Developers of the City Center II project have gone back to their original plans for bringing Hotel Indigo to the multi-use complex.

Strathmore Development Co. recently finalized architectural plans for the 115-room, 85,000-square-foot hotel. Hotel Indigo is operated by InterContinental Hotels Group PLC, whose chains also include Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites.

Hotel Indigo spokeswoman Mary Dogan said the hotel should open in spring or summer 2013.


Strathmore President Scott Chappelle said he still hopes to start construction by the end of the year as he draws closer to finalizing financing for the $95 million project. Chappelle said he's evaluating options that include a loan from a large Midwestern bank he would not name and an investment fund to participate in financing and equity.

The development would span about 5.5 acres from Grand River Avenue and Abbot Road to Valley Court Park. Plans call for the hotel, residential units, offices, retail space and a performing arts theater operated through Michigan State University.


He hopes to start demolition of existing buildings to make way for new construction in the fourth quarter. Work would take about 22 months to complete.


LMich Aug 12, 2011 7:20 AM

Rendering courtesy of A&G Partnership LLC | The State News

East Lansing skyline set to grow up

By Ian Kullgren | The State News

August 10, 2011

Under the shadow of the Ann Street Plaza’s iconic clock tower, a pair of empty storefronts appears out of place — two dark picture windows set against the nighttime liveliness of The Post bar next door.

But come this fall, the strip of storefronts, and effectively the entire downtown area, will begin a yearlong metamorphosis. Two new high-rise apartment buildings and renovations to the Ann Street Plaza will reshape the city skyline and street life, adding new housing for students and introducing several new businesses to one of the city’s most heavily trafficked areas.

Up in the air

At the July 26 East Lansing City Council meeting, the council approved the second of a pair of high-rise, mixed-use structures on the Ann Street Plaza — developments that have been in the works for nearly a decade, and when finished will be the tallest development projects the downtown area has seen in the last 20 years, since the University Place complex on M.A.C. Avenue was constructed in the late 1980s.

The structure approved at the meeting — at the site currently held by The Post, 213 Ann St., and the two other vacant spaces — will be a four-story building named St. Anne Lofts. The structure will include storefront retail space on the first floor and a restaurant with open-air rooftop dining on the second.


LMich Aug 15, 2011 6:09 AM

Looks like the mayor will try again to get the selling of a piece of the closed Red Cedar Golf Course on the November ballot:

A rendering of what proposed redevelopment could look like looking east on Michigan Avenue, with the former Red Cedar Golf Course land on the right. At top, the closed and overgrown Red Cedar Golf Course in Lansing. Courtesy artist rendering

What's next for Red cedar golf course?

Lindsay VanHulle | Lansing State Journal

August 14, 2011

A vision for the former Red Cedar Golf Course is not an overgrown field but a vibrant park, a place where people walk their dogs or ride bicycles along the riverfront.

Fences don't prevent people from entering. Instead, archways and green space invite people in.

People watch performances at an earthen amphitheater or walk from Michigan State University to the nearby Frandor Shopping Center. For some of them, this is their backyard.

As part of an effort to revitalize the dreary stretch of Michigan Avenue that is the gateway between Lansing and East Lansing, city and economic leaders in Lansing want a mix of housing, retail and recreation on a 12-acre sliver of the park nearest the corridor.

To do so, Lansing voters have to authorize city administrators to sell the park land. And to do that, City Council members have to allow the proposal to appear on the ballot, an action that has struggled to gain majority support.

A similar effort failed to move out of a Council committee in May.

The Building:

LMich Sep 13, 2011 9:25 AM

BCBS has finally completed their consolidation to downtown Lansing. With Class A space having been in the single digits for downtown for years, now, I'm really wondering when we might see a new office high rise?


Blue Cross Blue Shield opens new Lansing site, relocates 300 workers

By Melissa Domsic | Lansing State Journal

September 13, 2011

Michael Mahdi was at work by 3 a.m. Monday baking hundreds of bagels.

It was an extra-busy morning for Mahdi, who owns The New Daily Bagel on Washington Square in downtown Lansing. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan ordered a couple hundred bagels for its employees' first day in their downtown Lansing office.

The Detroit insurer moved about 300 Lansing-area employees from a site on South Creyts Road in Delta Township and two small offices in the area into Accident Fund Holdings Inc.'s former 130,000-square-foot home office at 232 S. Capitol Ave.


Employees are excited too. Lavora Barnes looks forward to walking to lunch, rather than getting into her car and driving to lunch in Delta Township.

"It's a terrific downtown here in Lansing, (with) places to go to lunch, lots of people to see, lots of activity and movement," said Barnes, the company's public policy manager.


Downtown felt a boost last year when Michigan State Police brought about 500 workers to its new headquarters at Grand Avenue and Kalamazoo Street.

The Blue Cross relocation comes on the heels of Accident Fund's move to the redeveloped Ottawa Power Station in April.

Accident Fund, which is owned by Blue Cross, employs 650 in Lansing and plans to hire 500 workers during the next 10 years.


DTW Sep 13, 2011 9:36 PM

Any pics of construction progress on these buildings?

MSU plans $40M bioengineering facility

The miniature construction boom that began last year on Michigan State University's campus hasn't quite petered out.

With no fewer than three buildings and a building-sized addition to Wells Hall currently under construction, the university's Board of Trustees has authorized the administration to plan for a new $40 million bioengineering facility that would be built on the south end of campus.

MSU increasingly has turned to private donations to finance building projects; the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum and the Bott Building for Nursing Education and Research are two recent examples. In the case of the Plant Science Expansion, the university decided to invest its own money, believing the project would pay off in grant funding

LMich Oct 7, 2011 9:42 AM

Not a specific, physical development, but it looks like the enrollment of Lansing Public Schools may have finally stabilized. Like most other urban school district, enrollment had been falling for many years previous. If this isn't just a fluke, it may also point to the population of the city at large finally stabilizing, too, which would be huge.


Lansing schools' enrollment stabilizes

Kathleen Lavey | Lansing State Journal

October 6, 2011

The Lansing School District could reap as much as $3 million in state aid if preliminary student counts hold.

Superintendent T.C. Wallace Jr. said Lansing, which has about 13,000 students, had budgeted for a loss of 500 students, but preliminary numbers from Wednesday's official statewide pupil count suggest enrollment will stay flat.

"Whatever number we come up with, 200, 300 under that is additional budget revenue that we had not anticipated," he said. Lansing gets just under $7,000 in state aid for each student it educates, so 500 students would add more than $3 million to the budget for the cash-strapped district.

Several suburban districts including Holt, Okemos and Grand Ledge also lost fewer students than expected in preliminary numbers from Wednesday's count.

Enrollment also began to stabilize in some of the districts immediately abutting Lansing as early as last year, too. I wouldn't at all be surprised to see the Census Bureau estimates for next year or 2012 show the slowest population loss in years.

In regional news, DeWitt Township and the City of Lansing have formally entered into negotiatons that would finally let the City of Lansing annex (under a conditional 425 tax sharing agreement) Capitol Region International Airport directly north of the city limits to begin the implementation of an "aerotropolis" around the airport. The 425 Agreement will include the 3.37 square miles airport, and 18 parcels of land wedged between the airport proper and the northern city limits of Lansing. In some of these cases, the 18 Dewitt Township parcels are actually the backlots of properties within the city of Lansing.


A 425 is a conditional land transfer between two jurisdictions, in this case between DeWitt Charter Township and the City of Lansing. The legal ability to transfer land from one jurisdiction to another comes from Public Act 425 of 1984. The properties to be considered in this transfer are all lands owned by the Airport as well as 18 parcels just north of Grand River. Many of these Grand River properties have their road frontage in the City and the back portion in the Township.

The proposed 425 has an initial term of 50 years, with the ability to be renewed for another 50 years. Services for such things as police, fire, zoning, and building will be provided by the City of Lansing. Any employee working in the 425 area will be required to pay the City of Lansing income tax, which is 0.5% (Salary of $50,000 = $250).

To ensure that existing businesses are held harmless in this transfer, the City and Township will be considering entering into two 425 Agreements. The first 425 will cover the Grand River properties and the currently developed properties around the airport terminal. All businesses in this 425 will continue to be taxed at the Township’s millage rate (currently 5.9736) and not at the City’s millage rate. If a business sells or expands, the tax rate will not change.

The second 425 Agreement will be for the remaining portions of airport property where no businesses exist today. When future development occurs in this area, these businesses will be taxed at the City’s millage rate.

The last element to the 425 is a separate agreement. This agreement is between the Township and the Airport. To ensure that the Township can continue to represent it citizens, this agreement will help sustain and increase current and future communication between the Airport and the Township.

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