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Friday, October 9,2009

Disposition

The Lansing Housing Commission is moving toward selling its controversial Oliver Towers property

by Neal McNamara

The new executive director of the Lansing Housing Commission says that she intends to take steps to find out the market value of the vacant Oliver Towers property in downtown Lansing, which would be the first step in selling the property.


Patricia Baines-Lake said that in the next 30 days she intends to send out a request for proposal for an appraiser to establish the value of all commission properties, including Oliver Towers.


Finding
out the fair market value of the property is one of the pieces the
commission needs to obtain “disposition” from the U.S. Housing and
Urban Development Department in order to sell the building. HUD has
what is called a “deed of trust” on Oliver Towers, which means that
since it provided money for the construction of the building, it has
final say in approving its sale.


The
commission received disposition on the property in 2001 when the
building was appraised at just under $2 million. However, the
commission cannot use that appraisal because HUD will not accept one
more than 90 days old. Oliver Towers was damaged by a fire in 2000, and
has been vacant since.


Baines-Lake
says she intends to have Oliver Towers ready for sale in 90 days. As of
yet, she said, the commission has not received any offers or interest
in the property.


Baines-Lake,
who came to Lansing from the Detroit Housing Commission, worked on a
similar sale of a property in that city. The Detroit commission was
trying to sell Brewster-Douglass complex, but did not use a real estate
broker. So far, that property has not sold.


“Location, location, location is the answer in real estate,” Baines-Lake said. “I hope that applies here as well.”


Oliver Towers is at Capitol Avenue and Shiawassee Street.


Baines-Lake
said that the sale of Oliver Towers would be a “fair and competitive”
process. A coalition of local churches has been trying
to turn Oliver Towers into supportive housing for the homeless, and,
perhaps, other interested residents, and has said it would pay as much
as $3 million for the property.


Last
year, a millage was floated to voters, though not approved, that would
have provided enough funding for the Capital Area District Library to
build a new headquarters, which was sited for the Oliver Towers
property. Included in that development was a new home for the
Impression 5 Science Center.


Margaret Bossenbery, who chairs the CADL board, said the library system does not have the funds to pursue that project.


“Because
the millage request for the library improvement plan was not successful
last year, CADL is not in a position to purchase the property or build
a new downtown library at this time,” she wrote in an email.


Impression
5 Executive Director Eric Larsen said, too, that his organization is
not looking to relocate to the Oliver Towers site.


Tim
Murphy, assistant vice president of operations at Cooley Law School,
said that the school is not planning to acquire any more property soon.
Lansing Community College spokeswoman Chris Hollister said that
purchasing Oliver Towers is not in the school’s master plan.


Baines-Lake
said that she has only heard rumors about plans for the property, but
she would not “give credence” to what she’s heard until the building is
for sale and the commission can entertain offers.


“The proof will be in the response once it’s on the market,” she said.



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