THURSDAY, Oct. 10 — One of the most significant developments in Lansing’s recent history officially broke ground today on the eastern edge of the city, as the old Red Cedar golf course gives way to new apartments, hotels, shops and park space.
The developer, Continental Ferguson, actually started moving earth last month, but Mayor Andy Schor, along with his predecessor, former Mayor Virg Bernero, and Drain Commissioner Pat Lindemann ceremoniously marked the occasion today for the $275 million development and environmental cleanup with contractors and other dignitaries.
"I am excited that we are taking the next step toward making this development a reality by officially breaking ground," Schor said. "The economic development associated with the Red Cedar project will be a tremendous addition to the work being done on Michigan Avenue, creating an exciting and vibrant entrance to the city of Lansing and connector between the Capitol and MSU."
Schor said he felt like a baseball closer, coming in after Bernero threw most of the pitches for the win. “I get to come in after eight innings and get the save,” he said.
Continental Ferguson and its subcontractors will work the 36 acres of land and prepare the site for development until the snow flies, but vertical work will wait until next year. Student housing is scheduled to be available for the 2021-22 school year. The developer was given permission for construction to occur between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., seven days a week for the rest of autumn.
At the same time, Lindemann said the project provided them an opportunity to clean up the biggest source of rainwater runoff pollution in the entire Red Cedar watershed.
“Degradation of the Red Cedar is directly related to storm events,” he said, noting that the Red Cedar development sits at the mouth of a square mile of asphalt and other impervious surfaces from the U.S. 127 freeway, the Frandor Shopping Center and other commercial sprawl, which quickly ushers contaminants into the river every time it rains.
New filters and a wetland development on the north bank of the river will divert as much as 95% of that pollution from entering the river. The Drain Commissioner’s Office plans to release steelhead into the river as well as create habitat for amphibians and reptiles as they finish.
The Red Cedar Golf Course was closed as a recreational space in 2007 on the cusp of the recession as Lansing looked to cut costs. The Waverly Golf Course on the opposite end of town met a similar fate. Both have sat quietly ever since awaiting redevelopment.
The new development has been a source of controversy, having come with 30 years’ worth of tax rollbacks, which will help the developer build on the floodplain, clean up ground contaminated with fertilizers and build new streets and sewer lines that will be handed over to the public upon completion. Twenty acres of the old golf course will be converted to a public park, with an amphitheater and bike path connections to the Lansing River Trail.
Continental Ferguson also agreed to pay a prevailing wage and hire local labor for the project.
Developer Joel Ferguson said he was proud of his time as a UAW member at Oldsmobile while he worked his way through Michigan State University. “Jobs will be union. There’s a priority for local people,” he said. “They’ll see how good the product is. Instead of being a problem, it’s a blessing.”
The two hotels, a Hyatt House and AC Hotel by Marriott, will have 285 rooms, a 4,300-square-foot ballroom with event and meeting spaces, a rooftop bar and a restaurant with a sixth-floor dining terrace. There will be 150 market-rate apartments along with 1,100 beds of student housing and an assisted-living center and memory-care facility.