THURSDAY, Feb. 13 — Developers plan to seek tax incentives from the city of Lansing to bulldoze two vacant office buildings on N. Washington Avenue and construct a new downtown headquarters for Michigan Realtors.
But despite support from Lansing Mayor Andy Schor, the plans are already hitting a snag at the Lansing City Council before they can get off the ground. Councilman Brandon Betz said he plans to vote against the project.
“They are a huge organization. There is a clear benefit for them moving close to the Capitol. I think they are trying to milk the city for every dollar they possibly can,” Betz explained earlier this morning. “Unless they can demonstrate real need, I’m going to work with my fellow councilmembers to deny the project outright.”
The proposal calls the demolition of two “functionally obsolete” office buildings at 700 N. Washington Ave. and an adjacent building in similar condition at 720 N. Washington Ave. In their place, developers plan to build a three-story, 19,443-square-foot commercial office building with a roof deck and 72 paved parking spaces.
Developers billed the site as a “highly visible gateway property” that will eventually include workplace and conference space for Michigan Realtors staff to host dinners, educational seminars, committee meetings and other events for members, stakeholders and partners from across the state. But first, they want tax incentives.
A press release sent this week noted the project includes “extraordinarily high” costs — $536,276 — to clean up the vacant land before construction can begin. A Brownfield Redevelopment plan would allow developers to recoup some of those costs by capturing the property taxes on the site over nine years beginning in 2021.
“Redeveloping this site will make a big impact on a highly traveled corridor in our downtown and will nicely compliment Durant Park by improving the overall safety of the surrounding area. We are looking forward to welcoming new visitors to Lansing as they enjoy this new facility,” Schor said in a recent press release.
The Lansing Brownfield Redevelopment Authority voted to approve the plan earlier this month. The Lansing City Council has since referred the plan to its committee on development and planning. And while it’s set to go before the full City Council for final approval in April, at least one council member is already leaning against it.
“They’ll move here whether or not they can get a brownfield,” Betz added. “Unfortunately, they have a huge lobbying presence in Lansing. Most council members received donations from its PAC during their campaigns.”
Officials at Michigan Realtors — including CEO Rob Campau — were not immediately available to comment. Other council members, like President Peter Spadafore and Vice President Adam Hussain were more optimistic.
“Like all brownfield incentives that come before council, we will evaluate this project and determine its overall benefit to the city,” Spadafore said. “I look forward to hearing the details and learning more about the project.”
“I believe that these incentives are important when applied to the right developments at the right locations,” Hussain noted. “I look forward to discussing the development and whether it’s worthy of such consideration.”
Officials said the plan, if approved, will create about 30 construction jobs with demolition scheduled to begin in March and construction expected to be completed by the spring of 2021. A press release bills the tax incentives as “self-funding and self-regulating,” noting that developers won’t be reimbursed for an incomplete project.
The project also includes improved landscaping, sidewalks, parking and enhanced lighting — designed to allow easier access to both the new headquarters and Durant Park. Those improvements are also designed to “enhance the aesthetics and curb appeal” for both Saginaw Street and Washington Avenue, according to a press release.
“We are working to create a destination space for our more than 30,000 members from around the state, and this is a great opportunity to invite visitors to experience and explore Lansing as an added benefit,” Campau said in a press release. “It is my hope that this project will serve as a landmark property and a symbol of Michigan Realtors commitment to the Lansing area.”
Visit lansingcitypulse.com for continued coverage as the development plans head to the Lansing City Council.