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Monday, March 18,2013

Council Night

Oliver Towers land swap proposal scheduled for committee, City Council discussion. The Chamber of Commerce supports an open RFP process.

by Andy Balaskovitz
Friday, Oct. 7 — The proposed development agreement between the city of Lansing and Davenport University that could swap roughly three acres of downtown land is about to take the Lansing City Council’s center stage beginning Monday night.

First, the Council’s Committee of the Whole is scheduled to vote the resolution to swap the Oliver Towers property for Davenport’s campus out of committee and begin the public hearing process before the full Council. Once the public weighs in on the proposal, the Council could cast a final vote, likely before the end of October.

The proposal would trade a 3.01-acre, city-owned block downtown (part of which contains Oliver Towers) with Davenport’s 2.73-acre campus at Kalamazoo and Cherry streets. The Lansing City Council, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Lansing Housing Commission and Davenport’s Board of Trustees all need to approve the deal. None have done so thus far. At least six of the eight City Council members must approve the deal, according to City Charter rules for disposing of city property.

Also during Committee of the Whole, Lansing Community College officials are scheduled to give a presentation to Council members about LCC’s interest in the Oliver Towers property.

Since the deal between Lansing and Davenport was announced Aug. 31, LCC officials have voiced opposition to it because they say LCC is interested in obtaining the property, and was promised a public request for proposals by the city. Lisa Webb Sharpe, LCC’s vice president, has said that LCC was prepared to make an offer if an RFP did come out. City officials, including Mayor Virg Bernero, have said LCC turned down offers since 2008 to obtain the property. In this week’s issue of City Pulse, Bernero called LCC’s public concerns “unexpected,” “almost shocking” and “infantile.”

If the resolution to exchange land is voted out of committee, the Council is scheduled to vote on setting a public hearing for Oct. 17 on the matter.

The Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce supports opening up an RFP for the development of Oliver Towers, however, it is “neutral” on who ultimately gets it. In a letter to Bernero dated Thursday, Chamber President and CEO Tim Daman said:

“The potential development of the Oliver Towers property offers exciting possibilities for the City of Lansing. It is encouraging to know that there is considerable interest in the property, most notably from Davenport University and Lansing Community College.

“The Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce is neutral in terms of supporting any particular project. The Chamber believes that as important as the eventual development of the Oliver Towers property is for the City of Lansing, it is equally important that the process used to determine which project will be selected is fair and equitable to all interested parties. There has been concern expressed that the City did not issue an RFP to solicit bids for the project. Though we admit that we do not possess all of the relevant information about the Oliver Towers project, the Chamber does know that a public perception that the process may not have been fair to all interested parties could hinder the ability to move this project forward.

“The Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce is well aware of the City’s fiscal challenges in recent years. As you know, the Chamber opposed the millage request on the May ballot because it was inconsistent with our guiding principles which indicate that budget shortfalls ‘should be addressed by reorganizing priorities, reduced spending and reforms...’ We believe that the Oliver Towers development could provide much needed revenue to help the City of Lansing's budget situation. For that reason, we think it is important that the City carefully evaluate all proposals submitted under an open and expeditious RFP process, and select one that will best support the city's development and financial needs.”

In other scheduled business, the Committee of the Whole will hear a presentation from Lansing Economic Development Corp. President and CEO Bob Trezise on proposed 425 tax sharing agreements between Lansing and DeWitt Township to possibly create a state-designated “aerotropolis” near the Lansing airport. The Council is scheduled to consider setting a public hearing on Oct. 17 for the proposals.
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