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Wednesday, April 17,2013

GM: We’ll take your concerns to management

Council committee approves GM tax abatement request; talks updates on Stadium District developments

by Andy Balaskovitz
City Pulse file photo

Wednesday, April 17 — General Motors representatives told four Lansing City Council members today that they will take concerns about large vacant parking lots at its Grand River Assembly site back to plant managers.


Council President Carol Wood raised those concerns, which are the subject of this week’s City Pulse cover story, during a Development and Planning Committee meeting this afternoon. Council members Derrick Quinney, Jody Washington and Brian Jeffries were also present.


“It’s your back door, but it’s somebody else’s front door,” Wood said of the sprawling, lifeless lots. “I’m hoping GM can have a conversation in the future with neighbors on how we can put a better face on that.”


Troy Kennedy, GM property tax manager, responded: “We’re more than willing to take that back to plant management and those concerns.”


Kennedy, who was joined by GM manager of economic development Candace Butler, did not commit the company to any repurposing of the vacant lots that span the west side of the 111-acre property by Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.


The committee made up of Jeffries, Quinney and Washington unanimously approved GM’s tax abatement request for 12 years worth $4 million. GM is considering spending $38 million on a new 400,000-square-foot building and equipment at its plant just south of Interstate 496 near downtown that it says would bring in 150 new jobs. The Lansing Economic Area Partnership says $1.7 million in new property and income tax revenue would come in to the city over the life of the incentive.


The full Council will likely vote on the abatement at its meeting Monday.


In other development news, the committee is considering a rezoning request by Studio Intrigue architects for a prominent property near the Stadium District. The former gas station site at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Larch Street is owned by the Ingham County Land Bank (Studio Intrigue is asking for the rezoning on behalf of the Land Bank). Local developer Pat Gillespie has an option to buy the property. The rezoning plan sat with the Bernero administration for months before it was sent to the Council.


Dave VanderKlock of Studio Intrigue showed preliminary design sketches for what could be a three-story, mixed-used building on the site, 600 E. Michigan Ave. The request is to rezone the property from light industrial to a business district. Lansing planning administrator Sue Stachowiak said the rezoning makes sense for a variety of reasons, including its compatibility with the master plan.


Jeffries, the committee chairman, raised concerns about how long the project may sit if approvals are granted, given it’s a Gillespie project. He also scheduled an update on the Market Place development (see below) — another Gillespie project — today because he said development plans there have been on the table since 2008.


“We’ve approved incentives and land use changes, then the property sits there and isn’t developed for years,” he said. Particularly, he would like both the Market Place and the Michigan Avenue project back on the tax rolls, contributing to the city’s troubled Tax Increment Finance Authority, he said.


A resolution to set a public hearing for May 13 on the rezoning was tabled until the committee’s next meeting.


Meanwhile, what about the Market Place project adjacent to the city market? Wasn’t construction on that supposed to start years ago?


Steve Willobee, director of manufacturing and expansion for LEAP, said today that agreements over contamination remediation work will be worked out soon, and “you should see dirt moving in the next few weeks” to clean up pollution on the brownfield site.


That should take two to three months, he said. Actual construction on a four-story residential structure could start within 30 to 45 days after that, he said. So, Market Place construction won’t start until at least mid-July, according to Willobee.


It’ll also be a smaller project than originally planned. VanderKlock said initial plans called for four buildings, some mixed-use residential and commercial. The latest calls for one, four-story residential structure with a “connector node” on the north side of the building for future expansion.

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