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Monday, June 9,2014

Kids in the Hall

Council approves Cooley Law School Stadium project

by BECKY McKENDRY
MONDAY, June 9 — Before voting on the Outfield project, Lansing City Councilman Derrick Quinney held up the inaugural baseball from the first Lansing Lugnuts game he attended with his son in April 1996.

“Who knew 18 years ago, I’d be sitting here making a decision about what happens with this project?” he said.

On Monday night, Lansing City Council approved a package of bills that gave the green light to the Outfield, a $23.5 million mixed-use development project for Cooley Law School Stadium that reflects a partnership between the city, developer Pat Gillespie and Lansing Lugnuts owner Tom Dickson. The project will combine the construction of 80 new apartments, which will overlook the stadium’s outfield, with $10.5 million worth of renovations and repairs to locker rooms, the field and more.

Councilwoman Carol Wood was the lone vote of dissent for all individual pieces of the project. She cited concerns that public money would be used to help build a foundation which assists private development. She also said that Council had not been given adequate time to have all concerns addressed.

“There are still a number of questions out there and again, we realize the administration has been working on this for some time but for Council, this has been on the fast track,” she said.

Mayor Virg Bernero, who joined the meeting about 30 minutes in, responded directly to Wood’s comments before the vote.

“It’s imperfect,” he said. “If we ever present a perfect plan, I want to know about it. There’s no such thing as a perfect bill.”

Bernero chastised Wood for “nitpicking” the project and said that development plans like these are vital for the “renaissance of downtown.”

“People are noticing it — people are talking about Lansing’s comeback,” he said. “It’s going to be because of us.”

During public comment, some residents expressed their concern about the Outfield vote. Resident Linda Appling said that the city couldn’t count on filling the new apartments with renters.

“The baseball stadium, in my opinion, has become a white elephant,” she said. “We have better ways to spend our tax dollars. Fix the roads.”

“If the Lugnuts are doing so well, let them pay for the renovations,” she added. 

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