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Wednesday, November 21,2012

'Very complicated puzzle'

Still no price tag on remaining Red Cedar Golf Course land; officials forge ahead

by Andy Balaskovitz
Once a week, about two dozen people with a stake in how the Capital Gateway project unfolds meet in Lansing to talk shop. 

What will a 20-acre park on the south side of the old Red Cedar Golf Course look like? Who will be anchor tenants in the buildings that are planned? How will storm water runoff from the Frandor area be filtered before it gets to the Red Cedar River? How will the area be served with roads and utilities? How much land will Chris Jerome and Joel Ferguson buy from the city and at what price?

This is a sampling of the issues being worked out since voters authorized the sale of up to 48 more acres of the shuttered golf course on the east end of Michigan Avenue to the development team of Jerome and Ferguson. Representatives from the Ingham County Drain Commissioner’s Office, various city departments, Jerome and Ferguson, Clark Construction and the Hobbes and Black architecture firm are tackling them. Sometimes they meet at Clark Construction’s offices; sometimes at the Lansing Economic Area Partnership offices in the Stadium District. It’s all part of a “very complicated puzzle,” Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero’s chief of staff, Randy Hannan, said.

It’s neither simple nor quick working through a $100 million development, they say. There’s no timeline for starting construction.

“Now comes the hard part,” Jerome said. “It’s called doing what we said we were going to do.”

In a two-step process, voters have given the city the right to sell all 60-plus acres of the old golf course. First, they voted in 2011 to sell 12.5 acres fronting Michigan Avenue. Then, after developers Jerome and Ferguson said they wanted even more land, they voted in November to allow the city to sell all of the remaining 48.5 acres. The city charter requires voter approval of selling parkland.

One of the outstanding, short-term questions is how much the city will get for what the administration tentatively says will be about 28 more acres of the golf course Ferguson and Jerome plan to buy. While the 12.5-acre parcel voters originally authorized to sell was appraised at $5 million, the value of the rest of the land is uncertain. The administration intends for the city to keep ownership of the public parkland on the south side of the parcel, Hannan said.

The developers won’t speculate what they’d pay and the administration won’t appraise the land until it knows what exactly the developers will buy. Ferguson downplays the importance of the land sale.

“The price is a minor thing — it’s the economic impact this is going to have,” Ferguson said. He was asked several months ago on the “City Pulse Newsmakers” TV show about the $5 million price tag of the 12.5 acres and whether the rest would be in a similar ballpark. “Heavens no,” Ferguson said at the time.

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