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Property developer Brad Ballein’s heard all the nicknames for the building he owns at the intersection of Abbot Road and Grand River Avenue in downtown East Lansing. Cursed Corner. The Corner of Death. A couple more that aren’t fit to print. But Ballein doesn’t mind — and he doesn’t even necessarily see a pattern of non-success in that location.
“Every business that bailed there had a reason,” Ballein said. “One of them only sold hamburgers. I mean, if you wanted a salad, there was just nothing for you. Another closed every day at 7, when that location is right in the middle of the action. It didn’t really make sense to me.”
Certainly, the building’s high-profile location at 101 E. Grand River Ave. makes it an easy target. The flurry of businesses that came and went in a little under two decades includes Three Men and a Bagel, South Beach Café, Big Ten Delicatessen, Big Boy and Conrad’s Grill. But Ballein is quick to point out that with Conrad’s, it was just a matter of its lease being up and a quick move to a nearby location, at 1219 E. Grand River Ave. — Conrad’s also has a store in the Frandor Shopping Center. Ballein bought the 101 building in 1986 and slowly snagged the other buildings along that block as they became available.
“East Lansing isn’t like other college towns — it has its own spirit,” Ballein said. “It’s been interesting watching it grow and change over the years, and the next step we take is going to really bring new life into it.”
That next step is the Center City District, a 12-story mixed-use development that will house a 23,000-square-foot mini-Target superstore complete with an “urban” grocery store. The Albert Avenue Parking Lot — aka Lot 1 — will also be redeveloped into a 10-story mixed-use building, rebranding that stretch of property as a bustling, pedestrian-friendly lifestyle district. Construction on the $125 million project is set to begin next month and end in 2019.
Next month, the final two businesses in the stretch of buildings Ballein owns between 125 E. Grand Ave. and 209 E. Grand River Ave. will move into the recently renovated space adjacent to 101. That space recently underwent an overhaul to bring in its latest resident, Noodles & Co. and a Verizon store, which shifted down the block from its previous location. Up next: big moves for longstanding Asian dining destination Charlie Kang’s and Clever Clover, a bohemian and vintage appeal boutique that’s a spinoff of the Mad Eagle boutique around the corner. Chang’s is set to move in next to Verizon, and a search of public records shows that owner/operator Amy Chang is seeking a liquor license for that location. Ballein confirmed that Holly Mead, owner of Clever Clover, will move elsewhere in East Lansing, but deferred to Mead to confirm the location. Neither Chang nor Mead returned calls seeking comment.
It’s been a busy year for that corner, and around the downtown area. At 115 E. Grand River Ave., Lotsa Stone Fired Pizza took over the former home of American Apparel, Sundance Jewelry moved out of that stretch two blocks over to 330 Albert Ave., and a quick jog up Abbot Road finds Side Bar, a new eclectic bistro/bar, opened adjacent to the Abood Law Firm. Reno’s East is also putting the finishing touches on a massive expansion.
On the Dot
Elsewhere around East Lansing, work is underway on the new Green Dot Stables, at 410 S. Clippert St. in Lansing Township. The 12,000-square-foot building just west of campus is currently undergoing a massive renovation to transform the former Whiskey Barrel Saloon into a craft beer and slider joint. It will be the second North American location for a concept that started in Detroit’s historic Corktown neighborhood by MSU grad Jacques Driscoll.
“I was initially hesitant about opening another location for Green Dot, but there’s so much going on in Lansing right now,” Driscoll said. “It seemed like a matter of right time, right place.”
And near Frandor, the Potent Potables Project restaurant group is still hard at work on Punk Taco, a Mexican restaurant/carry-out eatery.
Meanwhile, a hop over the East Lansing city limit into Meridian Township, work on the Red Cedar Flats mixed-use development at 5000 Northwind Drive is nearing completion. While the development itself isn’t newsworthy, the first commercial tenant is: Last week, Meridian Township posted to its Facebook page that the ground floor space “may” soon be home to a Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery.
The Tilted Kilt is an Arizona-based Celtic-themed sports bar chain founded in 2003, reminiscent of Hooters.