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East Lansing Seeks Public Input On Former City Center II Development

Scott Pohl/WKAR
The former City Center II development is now known as the Park District Planning Area in East Lansing.

A $105 million development project in East Lansing known as City Center II has fallen apart after close to a decade of work. Now, officials are trying to decide what to do with the prime real estate at the corner of Grand River Avenue and Abbot Road.           

The city will hold public forums tonight and Friday to gather ideas from residents about the next course of action.

The public meetings on the Park District Planning Area project will be held at the Hannah Community Center, tonight at 7 pm and at 9 am Friday.

WKAR’s Scott Pohl spoke with East Lansing community and economic development director Lori Mullins about starting from scratch with a new name for the project.

LORI MULLINS:  Yes, we’re really taking a fresh start looking at the area. In fact, we’re calling it the Park District Planning Area right now, as it’s the area that’s available for redevelopment near the Valley Court Park. The city’s focusing in on the properties that are controlled by the city and the DDA (Downtown Development Authority).

SCOTT POHL:  So, we’re not calling it City Center II anymore?

MULLINS:  That’s correct. We’re just moving on, thinking about it as a planning area that we’re moving forward with the project on.

POHL:  Now, I know you want to hear from the public for ideas for this, but you must already be thinking on your own of the sorts of things you’d like to see in the project, perhaps things that you’d like to see from the former plans, maybe some new ideas. Can you shed some light on where you already are, even prior to these public meetings?

MULLINS:  We really are starting fresh. We’re looking at this as an opportunity to bring in a lot of new ideas, so I wouldn’t want to say that we’re going into it with a plan in mind, because we’re really not. We’re looking at this as a clean slate and an opportunity to move forward.

We do have some constraints to keep in mind, such as the money that’s been invested in the properties there thus far, the zoning that’s there, there’s some properties that are in a historic district. There are issues like that that have to be considered, as well as, obviously, the context. What is going on around that site is going to be important as we move forward. But as far as the uses and density, we’re really looking for community input. We invite the community to share their ideas with us so that we can put that into a request for proposal (RFP) that we will send out and try and get developers who are interested in moving forward with a plan that meets the community’s desires.

Developers already expressing interest

POHL:  Have developers already started sniffing around this idea?

MULLINS:  We have heard from several developers who are interested in this area, and we anticipate that there will be a lot of interest as the RFP goes out.

POHL:  Now, what we were calling City Center II took the course of several years before finally falling apart, so to speak. Does that add to any level of anxiety to get something done on this site?

MULLINS:  I think that what we see is that when a project takes several years like that, things change over that course of time, and so in this case, we’d like to move forward at a relatively steady pace, so that we’re able to have the people that are involved early on be involved later on as it moves forward. We also are hopeful that we’ll be in a better economic situation now as we move forward than we have been through the process of the City Center II project.

Can the area sustain multiple development projects?

POHL:  One last question: there are a number of areas where development is in the works, notably the stretch of land along Michigan Avenue, for instance, across the street from Frandor that developers are looking at. Voters will be deciding in the city of Lansing whether to sell that. Is there any concern that developers might be playing a game of dominos in some fashion, deciding what’s going to happen first before they decide to pursue like this one in East Lansing?

MULLINS:  I think that that might be the case if this wasn’t such a prime location. I think that both the location on Michigan Avenue and this location are really prime and ready for redevelopment, and they can both be happening at the same time without affecting each other significantly.

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