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Extreme makeover, EL edition


While many had a summer off, the world didn’t stop on and off campus at Michigan State University. Here’s a quick look at developments since last spring:

White nationalists sue

MSU is also facing a First Amendment lawsuit brought by white nationalists. Last month, the university received a request from Cameron Padgett, a 23-year-old student from Georgia, to rent the Kellogg Center for a speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer. MSU rejected the request, citing safety concerns in light of Charlottesville. Representing Padgett is Kyle Bristow, who ran Young Americans for Freedom as an MSU undergrad. The Southern Poverty

Law Center listed the YAF chapter as a hate group because of Bristow’s white nationalist beliefs. He’s since gone on to become a leading voice of right-wing extremism. He’s also the executive director of the Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas in southeast Michigan, also listed by the SPLC as a hate group. In the case against MSU, Padgett is seeking an order forcing MSU to allow the speech to move forward and more than $75,000 in damages.

Park District Planning Area

After decades of having blocks of the city’s entryway boarded up, the City Council has a deal with developers to invest over $154 million in redeveloping the space into an 11-story building on Grand River Avenue and a five-story, 66-unit apartment building behind it. The 11-story development will include apartments, a hotel and a parking garage. The city will reimburse developers a total of just over $19.5 million in brownfield credits over 21 years. Construction is expected to begin this fall.

City Center Project

A 12-story building will replace the two-story buildings along Grand River between Abbott Road and MAC and Albert avenues. It will include retail on the first floor and apartments above. At least 92 of the apartments will be priced for senior citizens, while the remainder will be market rate. Developers have already inked a deal with Target. That store, which will be 22,500 square feet, will include groceries, on-demand food, a pharmacy and limited household goods and clothing. Expect completion in 2019.

This is a $125 million project, with $25.8 million being reimbursed to Illinois-based developer HB BM East Lansing LLC under a Brownfield Development Agreement. It will be paid out over 30 years.


Though officially in Lansing on Michigan Avenue, SkyVue is aimed at MSU students. The $90 million apartment and retail complex opened Aug. 9. The city agreed to provide a $25 million brownfield deal to The Rise, the Atlanta based developers. The units are priced like similar local student housing options, with rent paid by the bedroom. Developers also contracted EdR, a Memphis, Tennessee, company that bills itself as “a leader in the collegiate housing industry since 1964” on its website, EdRTrust.com.

SkyVue has 143 one-bedroom units, 48 two-bedroom units and 146 four-bedroom units. Under the current leasing model, EdR is offering private bedrooms and bathrooms in both the four-bedroom and two-bedroom models.

Taxing trouble

And while the city of East Lansing is ramping up new developments with hundreds of apartment offerings, the Council is asking voters to approve a 1 percent income tax for residents and a half percent for non-residents who work in East Lansing. That question will be on the November ballot, despite pushback from Michigan State University.

MSU President Lou Anna Simon has offered $20 million in subsidy payments over the next 10 years if the city will withdraw the tax proposal. So far, East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows and the Council have held fast.

There’s something of a Catch-22 for students who may wish to oppose the tax at the ballot box. To vote, they must register as residents of East Lansing. If the tax passes, any income would be taxed at the 1 percent resident level, not the half-percent non-residents would pay. Changing an address from a parent’s home to the city should not impact anything like a student’s health insurance coverage from a parent.

The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 7 election is Oct. 10.

Policy boundaries

Farmer Steve Tennes from Charlotte has brought a religious freedom suit against East Lansing after the city blocked him from selling his produce at the farmers market. He refuses to rent his Charlotte property to same-sex weddings but is happy to do so for opposite sex weddings. He claims allowing same-sex marriages on his property would violate his Catholic faith. For its part, the city says that under a new farmers market policy, vendors have to certify they follow the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance.

That ordinance, first passed in 1972, is the oldest in the country to bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The city says Tennes is running afoul of it. Tennes says he has never discriminated in the city of East Lansing and, besides, state law prohibits the city from enforcing its ordinance beyond its own boundaries. Tennes and the city will be in federal court in Grand Rapids Wednesday for a motion to dismiss Tennes’ lawsuit.


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