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subterranean Dec 22, 2007 5:45 PM

Lansing-East Lansing | Development News
Just some recent developments for the City Club Tower.

‘The city is growing up before our eyes’
Written by Lawrence Cosentino
Wednesday, 12 December 2007
City Pulse

We pick up this story in thin air, where all plans begin.

Last week Lansing developer Shawn Elliott and his Grand Rapids-based partner, Dan Wert, climbed with me to the top of River House, a blue slab of apartments and penthouses rising above downtown Grand Rapids.

We rode a wobbly service elevator to the 14th floor, joined by workers in overalls and hardhats. Five wooden ladders brought us past the upper floors to open sky, where a self-erecting crane rose 50 feet above our heads and the silver Grand River threaded through a tabletop city 200 feet below.

The building is already one of the tallest in town, and it’s only about half done. When completed, it will reach 34 stories — the tallest building in Michigan outside of Detroit. On clear days, people living on the top floors will see Lake Michigan.

Despite its stature, it won’t be the world headquarters of anything, except perhaps the growing club of frustrated commuters and suburban exiles eager to mothball the lawn mower, move downtown and eat supper over city lights.

For now, these penthouses lacked certain amenities — the side of the building, for example. December winds whipped through orange safety netting. Instead of Persian rugs, the concrete floors were pooled with glare ice.

The climb was exhilarating, but Elliott wasn’t there for fun. He and his Lansing partner, developer Allen Drouare, are teaming with Wert’s firm, the Grand Rapids-based Robert Grooters Development Corp., to put up a similar residential tower in Lansing.

For Elliott’s team, River House is a bellwether of Lansing’s future. Tenants have signed purchase contracts for 136 of River House’s 200-odd units, and Elliott is sure he can tap a similar demand for high-rise Lansing living.

It looks like Elliott will get his chance. Monday night, the Lansing City Council approved two development agreements paving the way for a new downtown high-rise, Capitol Club Tower, which will rise to at least 12 and as many as 24 stories (most likely 20, Elliott predicts).

They approved the sale of an adjoining parking ramp and a surface lot.

If all goes as planned, the tower will break ground in February and poke above the surface this spring on the site of the old Lansing City Club.

If Capitol Club reaches 24 stories, it will be the tallest building in Lansing (surpassing the Boji Tower) — a small town in a box, with at least 80 living units (double that figure if demand warrants), restaurants, a gym, perhaps even a grocery store and swimming pool. Even if the building doesn’t reach the maximum, it will alter the city’s skyline.

Elliott’s team has agreed to spend at least $22.5 million on the tower, and about $7 million to improve the parking ramp and other expenses. He expects the total cost of the project to reach “the ballpark of $30-$40 million.”

“I tell people about it and they say ‘Yeah, right,’” Elliott said. “But it’s going to happen. We will show the market how big the market is.”

It’s still a paper tower, and not a final one at that, but Elliott says he has already taken 70 non-binding reservations for dwelling units.

Lansing’s chief neighborhood planner, Bob Johnson, called the project “transformative,” particularly when in tandem with several other downtown developments announced this year.
“Here you have something that has never been presented, not just in Lansing, but in this entire region,” Johnson said. “It’s as if the city is growing up before our eyes.”

Elliott loves nothing more than to haul scoffers to the River House and freeze their doubts in an icy wind.

Wert, a bit of a showboater, stepped onto a wooden service platform hanging off the edge of the building.

“There’s nothing underneath me right now,” he said with a grin.

Elliott hung back, next to a concrete support wall, staying grounded as his dreams. If a big residential tower can go up in Grand Rapids, he asserted, it can happen in Lansing. “This isn’t a drawing. This isn’t a virtual tour,” he said. “This makes it real.”

Swinging hammers, swinging deals
Allen Drouare, Elliott’s East Lansing-based development partner, has known Elliott for 20 years, since they were neighbors.

“He’s a fireball,” Drouare said. “He’s up there in the top three or four cheerleaders for the city of Lansing.”

Born in East Lansing, Elliott, 34, lives in Laingsburg with his wife and two children. His restaurateur brother, Kris, owns Troppo and Tavern on the Square in downtown Lansing and The Post in East Lansing.

In the past five years, Shawn Elliott has taken a keen interest in restoring downtown buildings, concentrating on the old South Washington Square commercial strip downtown. Most recently, he put up lofts at 109 S. Washington Square (the Capitol Pharmacy building) and 401 S. Washington. His biggest coup thus far is the restoration of the Ranney Building at 208 S. Washington, an architectural gem designed by Darius Moon.

The Ranney rehab was a joy for Elliott, a self-described “hammer swinger” with enoughpatience to remove the thousands of Famous Taco cinderblocks blocking the graceful Ranney façade.
The loft projects also gave Elliott a hint of the demand for downtown living.

“I love it when gas prices go up,” he said. “People are thinking twice about living in Dewitt, Okemos or even further out and spending thousands of dollars a year for gas.”

In January 2007, Elliott and Drouare cast their eye on a “very expensive and difficult land combination” close to Elliott’s downtown rehabs — a patch of Grand Riverbank occupied by the old Lansing City Club building at 213 S. Grand Ave., a vacant office building at 217-221 S. Grand Ave. called the “Goodrich Building” and a city-owned parking garage.

At first, Elliott and Drouare considered wrapping new development around the Goodrich Building.

“Then we said, let’s just see how many units you’d have to have to absorb the land costs for clearing the whole site,” he said.

The answer hovered around 100 units, dwarfing any other recent development in town, but local pride sauced up the partners’ business sense.

“We’re not inventing the high-rise,” Drouare said. “It’s a proven housing option, something other cities have.”

Elliott said Lansing is long overdue to join the club. “How is it that they’re doing this in Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Madison, Wis., Columbus, Ohio, and everywhere else?” he asked. “We put ourselves to task.”

In 1997, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. created a residential version of the Renaissance Zone, a package of local and state tax breaks aimed at jumpstarting development in challenged areas. After nine years, the exemption is lifted in 25 percent chunks each year, and phases out completely after 12 years.

Over 150 buildings in Grand Rapids sit on such zones. Wert and Elliott said the tool proved crucial in bringing hundreds of new residents to Grand Rapids since the mid-'90s.

The Lansing City Council approved the Renaissance Zone application for Capitol Club Tower Nov. 24.

Elliott knows some critics view the zone as a tax break for wealthy penthouse dwellers, but he vehemently defends its application here.

In an untried market, he said, the tax breaks are a “silver bullet in your pocket.”

Although he won’t turn away customers moving from elsewhere in Lansing, Elliott said the project is not aimed at moving people “from a taxpaying situation in Lansing into a non-taxpaying situation.”

“All those lawyers at the law firms downtown and most of the people at the Capitol come and draw their paycheck downtown, but then they go and live in Delta Township or Okemos or Dewitt, because there hasn’t been an exciting enough choice for them downtown,” he said.

Elliott said the ripple effects of the project, from restaurants to retail to services, will bring millions of dollars into the city. He estimates that Capitol Club residents will spend about 70 percent of their disposable income in Lansing.

Elliott is also tickled that the project is drawing investment money from Grand Rapids. It’s the first time Grooters has reached beyond the metropolitan Grand Rapids area, where they have developed over 500 million square feet of space, including a key development of a run-down railroad depot that now employs 250 people.

Elliott recalled the flap over using Grand Rapids labor on Lansing street projects last summer. “We’re doing the opposite,” he said. “We will use a local work force on Grand Rapids’ dollar.”

Elliott said he’ll use “98-100 percent” local labor on the build. He has already tapped local lawyers, local accountants and a local architectural firm (Studio Intrigue in REO Town) to handle a quarter-million dollars’ worth of preliminary work. He’s also contacting MSU for expertise on making the building and grounds environmentally sound, with an eye toward LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

Serious reservations
Dan Warmels, a divorced, 58-year-old East Lansing CPA with grown children, has already made a reservation at Capitol Club. He and 69 others have put $500 in an escrow account for the privilege of being assigned a number. In a careful bootstrap operation bristling with legal safeguards, Elliott and Drouare will use these reservations to prove there is demand and finance construction accordingly.

“The building will design itself,” Elliott said.

When the building plans are final, the “reservists” (Elliott’s term) will be offered purchase
contracts in the same order they signed up.

Warmels has not only reserved a small penthouse (1,200 to 1,500 square feet) for himself, he has persuaded a co-worker and two clients to do the same.

“I have friends that overlook Seattle and Tucson, and I wanted something where I could get a little view,” he said, then the accountant takes over. “The combination of a high-rise setting and tax savings makes it unique in downtown Lansing.”

With the Renaissance Zone in place, Elliott said, the monthly payment for a $200,000 unit will come in under $900 — a magic threshold that has drawn most of the “reservists” thus far. (High rollers can spring for bigger penthouses that may go up to a million dollars.)

As a bookend to the afternoon, Elliott and I hop onto the roof of the Grand Tower, a 16-story office building just north of the Capitol Club site, that will give us an idea of the view from Capitol Club Tower.

The elevation is lower than our River House climb, but the view is far more dramatic and intimate than the sprawling, haphazard Grand Rapids cityscape. It looks like the pulsating nucleus of a young city. Lansing’s two Art Deco landmarks, the Boji Tower and the Ottawa Power Station, burned with orange flame. Cedar Street curved fetchingly to the north, following the smooth evening-gown zipper of the Grand River. Far to the east, bits of MSU glinted in a sea of trees. A crest of hills ringed the horizon.

Elliott looked down at his own little Washington Square lofts, nestled among the storefronts below.

“We have ourselves a city here,” he said.
The View: This panorama from the roof of the 16-story-tall Grand Tower shows what the city will look like from the nearby Capitol Club Tower. (E.J. Jocque/City Pulse)
Forerunner: River House, a 34-story complex of condos and penthouses in downtown Grand Rapids, will be the tallest building in Michigan outside of Detroit. The Grooters Corp., developers of the River House, are helping Lansing developers Shawn Elliott and Allen Drouare build Capitol Club Tower. (E.J. Jocque/City Pulse)

LivingIn622 Dec 22, 2007 10:19 PM

Good news for people living around Lansing, I guess they have a city there.

ColDayMan Dec 23, 2007 2:14 AM

The building is already one of the tallest in town, and it’s only about half done. When completed, it will reach 34 stories — the tallest building in Michigan outside of Detroit.

Even taller than Southfield's tower(s)?

subterranean Dec 23, 2007 3:03 AM


Originally Posted by ColDayMan (Post 3242327)
The building is already one of the tallest in town, and it’s only about half done. When completed, it will reach 34 stories — the tallest building in Michigan outside of Detroit.

Even taller than Southfield's tower(s)?

That I am not entirely sure, though they may be lumping Metro Detroit as a whole. I'll look into it.

subterranean Dec 23, 2007 3:10 AM


Name | Height | Floors | Status | Year | Drawings
• 3000 Town Center 122.4 m 32 built 1975 (5)
• 1000 Town Center 120.4 m 28 built 1989 (3)
• 2000 Town Center 112.9 m 28 built 1986 (3)
• American Center 100.9 m 26 built 1975 (2)
• 5000 Town Center 100.0 m 33 built 1983 (1)

Grand Rapids

• River House Condominiums 123.8 m 34 construction (1)
• Helen DeVos Children's Hospital 96.9 m 11 construction
• Icon on Bond - Tower I 32.9 m 9 construction

Beats it by a meter and a half.

hudkina Dec 23, 2007 7:37 AM

Damn, Southfield is going to have to build another tower to show Grand Rapids up...

d59 Dec 27, 2007 5:22 PM


Originally Posted by hudkina (Post 3242635)
Damn, Southfield is going to have to build another tower to show Grand Rapids up...

Let's hear it for Grand Rapids and Lansing!:cheers:

LMich Dec 27, 2007 9:06 PM

SubT, I hope you don't mind if I post some updates of some projects going on in the capital city. I took most of these on Christmas afternoon, so I had the central city all to myself (to explain the lack of even automobile life on the roads).

Ottawa Street Station - The chimney was brought down a few days before Christmas to prep it for the renovation it is about to receive. It will be the new corporate headaquarters for Accident Fund Company, a worker's compensation company, and will bring along with its 650 jobs from another downtown office building, and will grow by 500 jobs over the coming years. This will require an 120,000 square foot addition that will be built to the north.


A comparison:

And, here are the two buildings to be brought down for the new office addition that will be connected to the newly redeveloped station:

The neon letters on the station should be coming down soon, as well.

Hollister Building - This building's exterior renovation is largely complete. This forumer office building (1890's) is going mixed-used with 20 upper-floor lofts and office space and groundfloor retail.

Stadium District - This new construction is a mixed or apartments, condos, office, and retail space built directly across the street from Oldsmobile Park.

Sparrow West Wing Addition - Sparrow Hospital's newest tower.

Projects to come...

Market Place and Ballpark North - offices, condos, restaurants, etc...spread out along the riverfront and north of the stadium. It will include a new Lansing City Market on the riverfront.

(site of area in foreground)

Kalamazoo Gateway - a green building south of Stadium District to include 10 condos, 33 apartments and 14,000 sq. ft. of commercial space with underground parking. Will be connected to the River Trail by a new entrance to the trail.

Ottawa @ Butler - 52 condominium building and rowhouses on the western side of downtown near the Hall of Justice. It will aslo be green.
Full Size
Full Size

And more...

subterranean Dec 27, 2007 9:58 PM

No, I don't mind. But I am upset that I didn't get to see that stack come down.

LMich Jan 4, 2008 12:10 AM

I was surprised at how disinterested I was in the process.

Exodus Feb 2, 2008 9:07 AM

These look better than the apartments that were built on Woodward near the DMC. Why couldn't Detroit design something like this :shrug:

Rizzo Feb 4, 2008 7:31 AM

I liked the power station better with the smokestack. They should have kept it like they did in B-more.

LMich Jun 25, 2008 7:43 AM


They decided some time ago, now, to settle on 18 stories, but this latest article seems to state that they may still raise it if demands warrant:
Becky Shink/Lansing State Journal

Selection center: Crews work Friday on the Capitol Club Tower's selection center and sales office. The tower is currently planned for 18 stories, but it could be taller if there's enough interest from potential buyers.

Sales office's success may boost Capitol Club Tower's height

Reaching for the sky

Jeremy W. Steele • Lansing State Journal • June 21, 2008 • From Lansing State Journal

Plans to build a riverfront condominium tower in downtown Lansing are slated to take a step forward next week.

Developers of the Capitol Club Tower - slated to rise 18 stories from its site near Grand Avenue and Allegan Street depending on demand - are set to open a selection center and sales office along Michigan Avenue on Thursday.

The nearly 850-square-foot selection center, which looks out along its west wall toward the riverfront project, is designed to show would-be buyers the types of materials that will be used in the units.

Shawn Elliott, a partner in the project, hopes the space will help cement enough interest to take the building higher.

"This summer, we have to make the call," said Elliott, who has rehabbed several downtown buildings. "We have the opportunity to build the biggest building in Lansing."

At 18 stories, the tower would be the city's second-tallest building, behind Boji Tower at Allegan Street and Capitol Avenue.

So far, nearly 100 refundable deposits of $1,000 have been put down toward units in the Capitol Club building.
The deposits reserve possible buyers' places in line for condos and help developers determine how big they can make the building.

"We really need to have those conversations as soon as possible," he said. "Some people think they can wait to see a crane in the air. If that happens, they've probably waited too long."

Because of tax incentives at the site, monthly mortgage payments for a $180,000 to $200,000 unit would be comparable to rent of $1,100 to $1,200, the developers have said.

The next step for the development team, which includes Grand Rapids-based Robert Grooters Development Co. and several local investors, will be to take over the city's South Grand Avenue parking ramp.

The structure is adjacent to the tower site and would provide residents parking. The City Council in December agreed to sell the ramp for $1.5 million.

First, however, the council must substitute other property for the ramp as collateral for the city's Tax Increment Finance Authority, which took on debt for the Lansing Center and other downtown public projects.

City officials are recommending the Townsend Street ramp be used, according to a memo from Bob Johnson, director of the Department of Planning and Neighborhood Development.

It would replace the South Grand ramp and four other city properties as collateral.

Council is expected to take up that recommendation Monday.

Contact Jeremy W. Steele at 377-1015 or


BTW, I'm turning this into a general Lansing development thread even though I post so little concerning this city, anymore.

subterranean Jun 25, 2008 11:49 AM

A new tallest for Lansing? :)

LMich Jun 26, 2008 5:15 AM

That would be something, wouldn't it? It doesn't seem likely, but I guess it never hurts to dream. Personally, I'd like to see our future tallest be a mixed-use structure that adds just as much to the skyline as it would to the street. The location of this thing is kind of weird.

On a slightly different note, I'd like to see a new tower atop where the current downtown YMCA stands to balance out the skyline a bit more...
Doug Langham -

LMich Jul 18, 2008 3:16 AM

City Center II gets upscale hotel

By Allison Bush / The State News
Published: July 16, 2008

Hotel Indigo, an upscale boutique hotel, part of InterContinental Hotels Group, one of the largest hotel groups in the world, has committed to East Lansing’s City Center II project.

The announcement was made Tuesday by Strathmore Development Co., the project’s developer.

The hotel is expected to be successful because there is demand for an upscale hotel in East Lansing, said Scott Chappelle, president of Strathmore.

The 115-room hotel will be located in the 10-story mixed-use building on the corner of Grand River Avenue and Abbot Road.

Construction should begin in late 2008, Chappelle said.

Published on Wednesday, July 16, 2008

subterranean Jul 18, 2008 4:52 AM

Holy crap. E.L. is booming.

subterranean Jul 18, 2008 4:57 AM

Oh, and what is the development in the second photo there? That's the view from the park but there is nothing currently there. How many townhouses are proposed?

Between this and the other mid-rise projects downtown, things are going to be bustling.

LMich Jul 18, 2008 5:09 AM

It's all part of the City Center II development, which will completely remake the western end of downtown East Lansing. It's been in the work for YEARS, now, but after much wrangling with the adjacent neighborhood it's finally been approved for construction.

City Center II

BTW, back in May, the Wharton Center began working on a 400-seat center for Building A. Building A is going to be truly mixed-use.

LMich Aug 7, 2008 8:08 AM

Here's a new siteplan showing the proposed New City Market. It will be located directly south of the current market, but slightly closer to the river. To be more specific, it will co-opt the current ampitheater on the River Trail between the current City Market and the Lansing Center:

Earlier Preliminary Renderings

subterranean Aug 7, 2008 4:47 PM

That doesn't look nearly as bad as I thought given the previous drawings. Quite honestly I've been pretty uninspired and, ironically, not intrigued with anything that Studio Intrigue has done.

Additionally, I watched the city council meeting the other day on television. There were some pretty real and justified critical observations by stake-holders. First of which that I thought to be pertinent was parking. The second problem that I saw as a warranted observation was that the new market would be on private property if this goes through, and the vendors were not approached about rent, regulations, etc. Yet another topic was visibility. Granted, the site they are currently occupying isn't in the best shape, but it was definitely a highly visible presence.

I have mixed emotions about this. I do not want this to become just some trendy thing for new urban dwellers to have as sort of a novelty, and lose the community building characteristics that the current market harbors. Indeed, the market is not a tenth of what it used to be, but there are real diehards. On the other hand, I think a jolt into the 21st century is much needed, and a prominent river front location such as this might give it the steam its been lacking in recent years.

It's easy to play "planner" on this and see what good it will do to the river front, and for downtown, but it takes a critical eye to see how many people have not been consulted in this process, which I think is a travesty. We should be striving for inclusivity in all matters with diverse interests and investment, whether that be social or monetary capital.

GRap Aug 8, 2008 1:47 AM

I like all of those plans, I think that Lansing really needs them. I see it as having more potential than any other city in the state. I just hop ethe Capitol Club tower turn out good. I may be a little skeptical but I dont think I like the looks at that location location. Its too close to the grand tower which imo belongs in some office park in suburban Indianapolis, I just hope the hight is taller or a lot shorter. I agree with lmich, that the ymca location would be a perfect location for a taller building to balance out the skyline. Those 2 blocks of Washington north of Michigan have some pretty ugly low-risers that should be replaced. One thing taht this tower could do is bring more balance south and in the future put a tower on either Washington or Capitol in the southern area of downtown between Washtenaw and Lenawee

hood Aug 8, 2008 2:09 AM

This is the building proposed for the YMCA site:

subterranean Aug 8, 2008 4:53 PM

Just a couple photos taken with my phone at lunch today..

LMich Aug 19, 2008 3:49 AM

I really like the last one taken in front of the Lansing City Rescue Mission. The composition is great with the bikes and raingardens with the development behind it.

The Market Place agreement has passed paving the way for a new market and a mixed-use development at the current market site:

Council approves Lansing City Market agreement

Susan Vela • • August 18, 2008 • From

11:05 P.M. - Local residents will have a new year-round, indoor-outdoor market where they can buy fresh produce on the downtown riverfront now that Lansing City Council approved a $1.6 million sale to make it happen.

Council voted unanimously Monday to approve the sale of the Lansing City Market to local developer Pat Gillespie so that he can bring Market Place — a $24 million to $30 million mix of retail, office and residential space — to the downtown riverfront.

Gillespie will demolish the 70-year-old market building, which has a termite problems and requires an annual city subsidy of about $50,000 for utility bills, by early 2010.

With proceeds from the sale, the city plans to complete its new market on property just south of the current location.

“Our commitment to Lansing is unwavering,” said Gillespie. “We’re rockin’ and rollin’.”

Council President Brian Jeffries, who along with council members Carol Wood and Eric Hewitt had been opposed to the terms of the sale, said he was satisfied with the latest revisions. Six yes votes were needed among the eight member council.

“This does a tremendous amount to move the city forward, and it helps the developer,” Jeffries said.

Monday’s vote was the culmination of intense debate that erupted once Gillespie announced his Market Place plans last October.

In recent weeks, Gillespie, attorneys and city officials began revising the contested language in the development agreement.

The first set of revisions included extended construction deadlines, a clarification of the costs for which the Lansing Brownfield Redevelopment Authority could reimburse Gillespie for, an assurance that Gillespie will pay the city’s full tax millage rate for 10 years if he sells a Market Place building to the state, and new mention of a tax incentive Gillespie may seek.

Last-minute revisions, which were the result of weekend huddles, included a change that would have Gillespie pay the city’s full millage rate for 15 years should he sell a piece of the property to a non-taxpaying entity. The revised agreement also stated Gillespie would make a good faith effort to hire a diverse, mid-Michigan workforce. It also stated that the mixed-use building shall not include a one story, wholly commercial, structure.

“This is the plan that will catapult the historic market to new heights of success, moving Lansing forward in this tough economic climate is not easy,” said Mayor Virg Bernero. “Projects like Market Place, Ottawa Power Station, Capital Club Towers and Ballpark North, don’t just fall into our laps like pennies from Heaven.”

Public comment lasted nearly three hours. Among the approximately 50 people who commented was William Earp, an Okemos resident. “Please vote in favor of this proposal,” Earp urged the council. He said he favors the plan because of the all the additional commerce it could bring.

Others joined Friends of the Market in trying to save the current site. Sandra Slaughter, of south Lansing, asked the council to “Please leave the city market as it stands, as a beautiful landmark in the city.”

Before the vote, an amendment offered by Wood that would have called for the council to review all site plans for the project failed to gain council support.

Read Tuesday's Lansing State Journal for more on this report.

LMich Sep 5, 2008 6:55 AM

Ottawa block powers up

Gene Townsend’s Ottawa Block development grows cooler and grander. And spawns a Neighborhood Enterprise Zone.

Neal McNamara / Lansing City Pulse

When local developer Gene Townsend began talking to Lansing city officials about his Ottawa Block project last year, Mayor Virg Bernero tried to tell Townsend how it should look — because, after all, the mayor would have to sign off on it. Bernero advised that the Ottawa Block plan would have to be grand and really cool, said Townsend said last Friday, retelling the story. Townsend recalled being a little affronted, telling Bernero he would leave it up to experts and market research to determine the scale of the project.

And what did the research show and the experts find? The Ottawa Block project should be grand and cool. The plan for Townsend’s project was announced late last year, and so far, it is not shaping up to be lame or small.

It appears that Townsend’s new urbanism idea for Ottawa Block would significantly change the Genesee/ Downtown/Capitol Complex area. Townsend would build 76 condo miniums on the mostly vacant prop erty, bordered by Butler Boulevard and Ottawa, Ionia and Sycamore streets.

There’s also a planned mixed-use building, with loft-style condominiums above and retail on the ground floor, that would bring water to a residen tial desert, bordered on the south by a big parking lot and even bigger state government buildings. There’s also a planned Neighborhood Enterprise Zone that would encompass every thing between Saginaw Street, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Walnut Street (with a jog west on Shiawassee Street) and Pine Street. Residents, developers or prospective homebuy ers would be given tax breaks on new residential construction.

The breaks wouldn't apply to commercial prop erty. Townsend unveiled the project late last year amid a drizzle of other developments. Townsend bought the Ottawa land from the Lansing Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, which bought it from the state for $460,000. The state had owned the property for the better part of 50 years, and it at one point had plans to use it for a governor’s mansion, or perhaps offices. The Ottawa deal was closed Jan. 8, with Townsend taking owner ship of the property. The project has an estimated cost of $12 million.

There are nine existing structures, seven of which will stay. Of those nine Townsend owns four, two of which he will keep. The rest are privately owned or owned by the state.

Since the project was announced, plans for Ottawa Block have changed. Townsend is predicting 76 condo miniums, 24 more than originally announced. The first 12 will go up mid block along Ottawa. We could start to see dirt being moved toward the end of the year, Townsend estimated.

One interesting part of the first building is that parking will go beneath it, slightly below street level. According to the Townsend’s plans, you wouldn’t be able to see any cars.
Another hinge of the project, liter ally, is the mixed-use building at the corner of Ottawa and Sycamore. In earlier plans for the building, it faces Ottawa Street. But Townsend is con sidering changing the building into an “L” shape, so it would wrap around the corner of Ottawa and Sycamore. There would be 5,000 square feet of retail space, which would be room enough for four stores, with “very dramatic” two-floor lofts above.

“The corner would be anchored bet ter by an L-shaped building,” Townsend said. “More people. More energy.” Also since the beginning of the year, Townsend has received a few “gifts” from the state and local gov ernments for the project. In March, the project was approved for a 20 percent Michigan Business Tax credit, which equals out to about $1.8 million.

The credit is so high, Townsend said, because the project will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified and mixed use. Other factors are that it will increase neigh borhood density and is being built in an “urban core.” That $1.8 million, Townsend said, will be passed on to those who buy his condominiums.

“In this market, you’d be deluding yourself if you think you can keep (the money),” he said. Townsend has also been approved for tax increment financing — a device that captures property taxes — to repay his costs for cleaning up envi ronmental contamination. The TIF will take 18 years to repay Townsend the estimated $1.9 million it will take to clean up the site. The reason the TIF will last so long is the Neighborhood Enterprise Zone, which would give homebuyers a 50 percent break on property taxes (and homeown ers a 50 percent break on the val ue of any major home improve ments).

To qual ify, a homeowner hiring a contractor must make $5,000 worth of improvements; if a homeowner makes the improvements on his own, the value of them must be at least $3,000.

Bob Trezise, head of Lansing’s Economic Development Corp., said that the Ottawa Block has spurred a the new Neighborhood Enterprise Zone and that the city hopes hom eowners, or prospective homeowners, will take advantage of the tax credits to fix up or build new homes. Trezise said the city has had limited success with existing enterprise zones — by last count there are 20 in Lansing, mostly scattered throughout the center of the city, not including this newest one. “For whatever reason, people haven’t been taking advantage” of them, Trezise said. There is a joint Genesee/Downtown neighborhoods meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Grace Lutheran Church to inform residents about the enterprise zone, plus the progress of the Ottawa Block.

One of the last things Townsend has to do for Ottawa Block is market it. He has hired Redhead Design Studio in Old Town to brand the project. The brand, including a new name, could be rolled out as soon as the end of October.

But in the end, the Ottawa Block will bend to the will of the market, Townsend said. He’s not going to build what he can’t sell and what people can’t buy. “It’s silly to predict what the market will call for,” he said.

LMich Sep 18, 2008 6:11 AM

LCC, mayor’s off ice discuss a performing arts center

Lansing Community College is “strongly” considering building a regional performing arts center — long a goal of the arts community and mayors going back to David Hollister — on its downtown campus, its board chairwoman said Tuesday.

LCC and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero’s office have discussed a partnership between the city and the school to build it, Chairwoman Robin Smith said in a telephone interview.

The performing arts center would likely be built on empty property bordered by Capitol Avenue and Genesee and Seymour streets behind the new University Center and the recently renovated Carnegie Library on Shiawassee Street.

The talk of the new center is tied to the city’s sale of its parking ramp on Capitol between Shiawassee and Ionia Street. In the midst of a heady conversation between LCC officials and the Lansing City Council about selling the college the parking ramp during its Committee of the Whole meeting last Thursday, Chris Strugar-Fritsch, LCC’s executive director of administrative services, started talking about the possibility of building a performing arts center.

Strugar-Fritch said a performing arts center on the land would be possible if the college were able to buy the ramp instead of building a new one on that land, which was the original plan. Council still has to approve the sale. Strugar-Fritsch said that while a performing arts center could go on the Shiawassee parcel, everything is still conceptual.

“It’s an idea. It’s just a big idea,” he said. “There’s no project plan right now. It’d be a great thing to do.” Allowing LCC to buy the N. Capitol ramp, Strugar-Fritsch said, would benefit downtown Lansing because it would keep the school's vacant land open for development.

Smith said nothing is on paper yet and the Board of Trustees hasn’t taken up the matter, but it’s being discussed. Smith couldn’t comment on whether the BoarsHead Theater would be part of the center, but she said it would make sense. The city recently purchased the downtown parcel that BoarsHead calls home, but the city wants to build a parking garage on that spot, and the theater will eventually have to leave.

Smith said the center would definitely be for the entire community. “I think we can clearly see in the com munity that there’s a strong need for a performing arts center,” Smith said. “It’s something we’re looking at, futuristically.”

Smith also said that if the college is allowed to buy the ramp, it could build a restaurant for its culinary school on the top floor, plus upgrade the ramp’s ground-level retail space. Some of the ground floor is used for city offices.

Bob Johnson, director of the city's Planning and Neighborhood Development Department, who has mediated the sale with Council, said that Strugar-Fritsch’s statement Thursday was not surprising.

In talking about whether the land could be used for a performing arts center, Johnson said, “You bet.” Meanwhile, the city and its Economic Development Corp. sent out a request for proposal July 28 for a needs assessment and business plan for a downtown per forming arts center. The RFP, mentions that LCC could be a financier for a per forming arts center because it has access to state funds. In the RFP, the city also specifies its Tax Increment Financing Authority (a special district that covers most of downtown that captures new property taxes for a special fund that can be used to stimulate growth) could han dle some of the burden. EDC President Bob Trezise has said that he wants to restructure the TIFA for cooler things — a large amount of the TIFA currently goes to pay off city debt from building parking ramps.

This isn’t the first time there has been talk of a downtown performing arts cen ter. Former Mayor Hollister wanted to build a center along Michigan Avenue where developer Pat Gillespie’s Stadium District is. And Cooley Law School had contemplated a performing arts center at the corner of Kalamazoo Street and Capitol downtown, where the Towne Center building is. A little over a year ago, LCC was con sidering the possibility of a performing arts center where the N. Capitol ramp is. Fourth Ward Councilman Tim Kaltenbach, who represents the down town area, said Thursday was the first time he’s heard talk of a performing arts center inside LCC’s mostly vacant block.

“I’m surprised,” Kaltenbach said. “But I’m very supportive of a performing arts center downtown.”

— Neal McNamara

LMich Sep 19, 2008 10:13 AM

Photo update of Michigan State Police Headquarters:

Rendering (as seen from the rear, no less)

LMich Sep 22, 2008 7:28 AM
Troppo will move into a new building across the street from its current downtown location.

Troppo to move to sunny side of street

Jeremy W. Steele • • September 21, 2008 • From Lansing State Journal

It started as a desire to be on the sunny side of the street.

But a plan to move Troppo across Michigan Avenue could do more for downtown Lansing than provide a bright dining spot.

Officials say the project, which would top $1 million, is a way to reshape downtown's main intersection of Michigan and Washington Square - and provide more fuel for a developing entertainment district.

Restaurateur Kris Elliott plans to break ground in about six weeks on a building at the northeast corner of the intersection to house his fine dining establishment. Troppo now sits on the southeast corner.

"We need critical mass, and I think we're getting it," said Elliott, who moved Troppo from downtown East Lansing in 2004. "We're very excited for all the things going on down here."

The new restaurant would be more than twice the size of the current space.

Elliott would move his Tavern on the Square into the current Troppo space, which is about 5,300 square feet. That would leave Tavern's 3,100-square-foot spot at 206 S. Washington Square open for a new venue.

The new Troppo would be built on what's now a concrete pedestrian plaza adjacent to the One Michigan Avenue office building. Elliott led a $10 million deal to buy the building in March.

But the idea to put a restaurant at the site goes back nearly three years, he said.

The sunnier side

From Troppo's patio on the south side of Michigan Avenue, Elliott said he saw potential. His patio was always in the shade because it's on the north side of an office tower.

"We were looking across the street and saw the sun was always shining on the IBM building," he said.

Sun is key to good patio space, he said. And good patio space is key to the restaurant business.

Elliott said he began tossing around the idea of opening some sort of food stand with a patio in that sunny spot. That idea took a turn as Troppo hit its stride.

"Troppo grew so wildly successful we said we didn't need a patio, we needed a whole new restaurant," he said.

The new restaurant could be up to 14,000 square feet. It would include a 200-person ballroom-like space on the second floor and a possible rooftop dining patio.

Elliott said the first floor would keep the feel of Troppo's existing space.

He'd likely add about 30 workers, most of them part time, to the current staff of 50. Tavern could go from 35 workers to 50.

Council OK needed

The Lansing Economic Development Corp. has given preliminary approval to a $440,000 loan to help pay for the Troppo project, President Bob Trezise said.

The loan, from a revolving loan fund for economic development projects, would be payable over 15 years at 1 percentage point below the prime rate.

The project requires Lansing City Council approval.

"It's not just a project or restaurant, it's a total restyling of what we think is the most important intersection in the state of Michigan," Trezise said. "It is literally the doorway to the Capitol building itself."

'Real comeback'

The expansion of Troppo also builds on more than a decade of work by restaurateurs and bar owners to build up downtown.

Elliott opened 621, which he later sold, at 621 E. Michigan Ave. in 1997, shortly after developer Harry Hepler opened his Blue Coyote Brewing Co. around the corner on Pere Marquette Drive.

Developments like a new Troppo are helping to boost the area, Hepler said. He said he's even toyed with reopening the brewery, which closed in 2000.

"The town has made a real comeback," he said. "The more synergy, the better."

LMich Sep 24, 2008 4:44 AM

Here's where the new Troppo's addition is going.



DeBaliviere Sep 24, 2008 5:20 PM

I love it - what a great little building. While I'm not familiar with Lansing, I'm sure the added density will have a positive effect.

LMich Sep 25, 2008 4:47 AM

I'd like other developers to take note of such a project like this. I would have never guessed that anyone would have seen an opportunity at that corner. It came as a shock, to me given the fact that you don't ever expect a corner plaza (even though it served no use) to disappear.

LMich Oct 10, 2008 6:38 AM

Pierce Development of California released more detail renderings for the East Village proposal to go up in East Lansing, yesterday. Fortunately, the developer has until 2010 to start this so he doesn't have to rush such and ambitious project in this horrible housing market:

Lower Level Site Plan:

Upper Level:


LMich Nov 30, 2008 9:50 AM

The facade is going up on the Michigan State Police Headquarters. Much nicer than I expected. They are shooting for a January move-in which seems impossible to me.

Flickr cheapening of images on free accounts did this picture no justice, but there were workers putting up the facade on Saturday.

A better pic of the south facade:

edsg25 Nov 30, 2008 8:37 PM

What is the distance from RCI to MSU? And is the university's location a major factor for both the residential and retail space?

subterranean Nov 30, 2008 8:48 PM

RCI = Red Cedar Island? It doesn't even exist yet. Currently there is student housing (apartments and a few homes), fraternities, and a few businesses that occupy the site. The site is on the northeast side bordering Grand River Ave., the main thoroughfare, with many dorms nearby, and the Law and Business colleges not far away. The site is also close to a new modern art museum that is yet to be built, for which $26m have been donated by millionaire alum Ellie and Edythe Broad. It is said that the museum will supposedly tie downtown together with this new East Village development.

Michi Dec 2, 2008 5:39 AM

Grand River Avenue separates MSU from the East Lansing business district. Bogue Street runs north/south through the east-central part of campus, so RCI is essentially right on campus.

LMich Dec 19, 2008 12:19 PM

Well, the developer of the new Lansing City Market released some renderings for the new market. I think the actual architecture is far too dull and unassumming, but I'm loving the site plan. It takes out a hell of a lot of unnecessary parking that was available at the old market site, and puts the new market right on the river:




Mid-Michigan Jan 3, 2009 4:42 AM

That's my first time hearing about Red Cedar Island, I'll have to look more into it. Recently was watching "City Tv" and the Mayor spoke on how they will be trying to make the Grand River a major part of downtown, think it's a good ideal and glad to see the city improving.

LMich Jan 18, 2009 9:09 AM

Electric car project to create 70 jobs

Barbara Wieland • • January 17, 2009 • From Lansing State Journal

A Lansing-based electric car company startup will announce plans today to open a facility in Lansing and hire 70 people this year.

The company, EV Performance Warehouse Inc., plans to convert existing, gas-burning cars into purely electric-driven vehicles. Its first project will be to convert 2,000 fleet vehicles for various companies.

To accomplish that, the company will need technical workers such as engineers, electricians and lab technicians. Company President David Sterrett said the jobs will pay "above prevailing wage" but was not more specific. He said hiring is scheduled to begin before the end of June.

Sterrett said EV Performance is in the process of securing a building and workers could be converting cars to electric in Lansing by the third quarter.

The converted fleet vehicles will sell for $25,000 to $30,000, he said.

EV also plans to do personal car conversions that would cost $8,000 to $15,000, depending on the age and condition of the car and how far a driver would like to be able to drive on a single battery charge.

Sterrett said the startup will invest about $2.5 million to get the business up and running.

He said the plan to transform gas-powered cars into electric ones could help turn around the troubled domestic auto industry.

"We will be able to jump-start the Big Three," he said, referring to General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC.

EV will announce its plans at a 1 p.m. media conference at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, coinciding with the North American International Auto Show at nearby Cobo Center. Though the Renaissance Center houses GM's headquarters, the automaker and EV haven't announced a partnership.

The batteries for the vehicles will be provided by Allentown, Pa.-based International Battery Inc.

"This is a very significant opportunity," International Battery representative Jeff Benton said. "Anything that could create hundreds of jobs and generate millions of dollars of revenue is significant."

LMich Feb 4, 2009 9:18 AM

Looks like EV Performance Warehouse Inc. mentioned just above is searching for 150,000 of industrial space in the city. There hasn't been demand for that much area in a single building in quite some time:


Battery Technology Co. Looking for 148,000 Sq Ft Location in Lansing

Capital Gains, 2/4/2009

Manufacturer EV Performance Warehouse Inc. is looking at more than 148,000 square feet of space in the Lansing area for its new battery laboratory and assembly center.

“Most of the resources in the U.S. are based in Michigan for manufacturing of this type,” says EV Performance Warehouse Inc. President David Sterrett about deciding to bring the facility to Michigan.

EV Performance Warehouse Inc. will redevelop or construct a facility that will house the (LEVC) Lansing Electric Vehicle Center where all-electric and gas-electric hybrid products will be created.

“The assembly plant will most likely be on the Westside of town,” he says. Sterrett says they need at least a 100,000 square foot facility to accommodate production.

Sterrett adds that the company hopes to bring 70 direct jobs and a total of 500 direct and indirect jobs to the area in the next 12 to 24 months.

Source: David Sterrett, EV Performance Warehouse Inc.

Ivy Hughes, development news editor, can be reached here.

LMich Feb 7, 2009 3:48 AM

One of the more interesting buildings along the Square, if not the most interesting:

Matthew Dae Smith/For the Lansing State Journal

Renovation of Ranney Building completed

Jeremy W. Steele • • February 6, 2009 • From Lansing State Journal

Four years ago, it was as though a different building sat at 208 S. Washington Square.

The flat, argyle-pattern metal facade was an ode to the 1950s. The downtown Lansing building's three-story frame had no windows - or even a stairway to make the top floors usable.

Now, a nearly 3-1/2 year, $700,000 renovation of the historic structure - built in 1890 for George Ranney, a Lansing philanthropist and acclaimed doctor - has put the entire building back to use.

"People get excited when they come in here," said developer Shawn Elliott, who led the restoration. "It's an heirloom. It shouldn't be lost."

At only 24 feet wide, it might be easy to overlook the downtown building.

But it's only one of two surviving red stone Romanesque buildings in Lansing, historic preservation consultant Robert Morris wrote in a report for the city about its historical significance.

"The building itself is extremely significant," Morris said.

The architectural style is known for its use of arches, columns and towers. The other survivor is Central United Methodist Church at Capitol Avenue and Ottawa Street. Lansing's old post office and City Hall also were in the same style.

The Ranney Building's first 50 years were spent housing doctors' offices, including for Ranney, a decorated Civil War veteran who bought the lot in 1883 from the state.

The site and surrounding block previously had been home to the first Capitol building in Lansing.

Elliott and his crew began restoring the building in 2005, stripping the metal panels off the front.

Elliott was able to buy salvaged Lake Superior red sandstone from a razed YMCA building in Duluth, Minn., to repair the damaged facade. The original rock had been shipped to Lansing from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, via freighter and horses.

The interior - sealed in the 1920s when the stairwell to the second floor was removed - has been left largely intact. The names of the last doctors to work there remain on interior doors. Large oak pocket doors remained tucked neatly into the walls.

The oak woodwork just needed linseed oil polish, and the ornate porcelain floor tiles were cleaned and sealed.

"It's one of those things ... you hear about in an urban legend," Morris said. "It's extremely unusual."

Elliott said he originally hoped to find an office tenant who could take the upper floors of the building, fearing any other use might require the original floor plan to be divided. The first floor is home to a Menna's Joint restaurant.

But an office user never developed. Instead, Elliott, who owns several other downtown buildings, decided to turn the upper floors into loft apartments.

Work on those units recently wrapped up.

Unlike most other downtown lofts, each bedroom is rented individually. Each floor has five bedrooms and a central living and kitchen space. Rooms will rent for $500 to $600 each, Elliott said.

The layout allowed for the interior to remain largely in its original form.

"If you find something like this not all chopped up and destroyed, you owe it to the community to preserve it," Elliott said.

LMich Mar 4, 2009 6:34 AM

The [i]Ottawa and Butler[/b] residential project in downtown Lansing has been formally named and given a website. It's now known as Sobi Square, an acronym for the four streets that bind this block: Sycamore, Ottawa, Butler, and Ionia. It includes townhome buildings and multi-unit buildings.


Sobi Square


Site Plan:


LMich Mar 23, 2009 9:12 AM

The Society of Friends (Quakers) Red Cedar Meeting is coming along quite nicely on their new Meeting House they are putting up in Old Town Lansing:

And, the renovation of the Ottawa Street Station continues in earnest:

the urban politician Apr 5, 2009 3:57 AM

I was just in E. Lansing and Lansing the other day with my wife.

We went to a place called 'Insomnia Cookies'. The young lady working there told us that she doesn't have a car and lives downtown. She has two jobs (the second one being the mall). She said that the bus route along Grand River Ave is her LIFEBLOOD. She had nothing but very good things to say about that bus route, claiming that it was rated the best bus route in Michigan.

That goes to show you--even in America, a good transit system can be praised. After all, for the most part all we ever hear is complaints about transit from seemingly everybody in every city. Her feelings about her transit experience were great to hear. Moreover, I also observed that bus route and was impressed by the significant number of people using it and frequency of bus arrivals.

Just thought I'd share that..

LMich Apr 5, 2009 4:03 AM

The route you're talking about is CATA's more heavilyr-ridden, Route #1, and is the one route being studied to see if it could be converted to a light rail line. It can get crazy-busy as it connects the eastern suburb of Okemos with East Lansing and end in downtown Lansing.

the urban politician Apr 5, 2009 4:53 AM

^ Funny you mention that, because I was aware of that and actually told that young lady about the plan. She had no idea, but I told her to write to her Congressman/woman in support of it.

That's me, the transit crusader no matter where I go..

LMich Apr 5, 2009 5:10 AM

Along with the regularly scheduled buses along Route #1, CATA operates an "Entertainment Express" every Thursday thru Sunday from 7:30 PM to 2:30 AM that ferries bar hoppers to all of the bars and clubs along Michigan and Grand River avenues, as well as those in downtown Lansing and East Lansing, in a faux-trolley bus.

Mid-Michigan Apr 7, 2009 12:08 AM

Yeah know a resident of Okemos who's a downtown worker. She mention how she and others take the bus there and back to home.

LMich Apr 17, 2009 4:34 AM

Michigan State Police Quarters construction. Bare Grand Avenue will be getting a new streetscape this summer, finally.

Up the street Ottawa Street Station renovation. A new crane has arrived, onsite, to construct the addition

In between the Ottawa Street Station and MSP construction is the South Grand Parking Ramp that is to be upgraded in anticipation of the construction of the 12-story Capitol Club Tower that is to rise next door. The renovated ramp will include creeping vines and parking spots for bicycles.


Grand Ave. parking ramp to be greener

The owners of a downtown parking ramp want to make it a little greener.

Work is expected to begin in early May on about $350,000 in facade work to the South Grand Avenue parking ramp, which will replace some of its concrete shell and add living vines.

The ramp's owners also plan to add secured bicycle parking and locker room facilities to the structure - a nod to "green" commuters who might not otherwise have a place to park their wheels.


The ramp will include about 30 spaces for bikes, Elliott said. Those spaces could rent for less than $20 a month. Parking a car in the ramp costs between $99 and $130 a month.


Meanwhile, work on the parking ramp will continue and the old City Club building could come down in the next month, Elliott said.

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