THURSDAY, Feb. 13 — Lansing Mayor Andy Schor has introduced plans to rent out the former Lansing City Market building for temporary event space while he continues to search for a longer-term development.
“We continue to be optimistic that we will be able to repurpose the property into a sustainable and exciting permanent proposal,” city spokeswoman Valerie Marchand explained earlier this afternoon. “Until we have finalized something, we will maximize the usage of that space by utilizing it for temporary events.”
Despite the recent development of Rotary Park outside of the vacant Lansing City Market building, plans to transform that space into something other than a bar and grill have been unsuccessful for nearly 18 months. Schor is still listening for ideas, but in the meantime, he plans to open up the space for paid rentals.
Fewer visitors forced most vendors to abandon their stake in the market years ago, creating an empty warehouse with a bar and restaurant at one end. In July 2018, Schor announced plans to reinvigorate the space with development as the city embarked on a lengthy legal battle to evict the sole tenant, Waterfront Bar & Grill.
This week, nearly 18 months after Schor announced an open-ended “request for information” for development proposals and about four months after Waterfront Bar & Grill was forced to vacate, the space remains empty. And in the absence of longer-term plans, rental options will again allow the city to generate some extra cash.
“The request for information is open ended and responses are reviewed as they are received,” Marchand added. “As we hear from folks who are interested, we will work with them to see what is possible. Once we have something finalized, we will let the residents of Lansing know immediately.”
Schor suggested a $200-per-hour rental fee along with a refundable $500 deposit for use of both the City Market building and its adjacent plaza. Those fees will help the city recover the costs of maintaining the building and are designed to offset the costs of providing a new event venue.
Those proposed rental fees will be reviewed by City Council’s Committee on Ways and Means tomorrow.
But it’s far from a permanent solution. Assuming the market is rented every day of every weekend for the next year, those fees won’t bring in more than $200,000 annually for the city. Waterfront Bar and Grill alone paid $6,000 every month to remain inside the City Market after the farmer’s market had closed.
Schor has long talked about flipping the city-owned riverside gem into some type of financially sustainable development — including the possibility of a brewpub and restaurant just a block away from another brewpub and restaurant. But so far, any conceptual plans haven’t gained steam.
“I don’t want to have an empty building for a year, two years, a blight on the river,” Schor told City Pulse last year, then noting his request for information would only be open for a “few more weeks.” “I want to activate the space. Anyone with a proposal that can be financed by outside assets, not by the city — we are willing to listen.”
Without results, Schor also said, the city would issue a “strict Request for Proposal and set a deadline.” Marchand noted the City Market remains a priority for Schor, but that deadline hasn’t been set. Those with new suggestions for a sustainable development concept are still encouraged to call the Mayor’s Office.
“We’ve had people who say it could be a dance hall, it could be this, it could be that,” Schor has said. “There’s a lot of people with a lot of ideas, but very few people who can finance something. It would be great to have a water park, a roller rink, or a city market that works and isn’t subsidized.”
Visit lansingcitypulse.com for previous and continued coverage of the Lansing City Market building.