New lease

Former School for the Blind has new developers, new plan

Courtesy the Mayor's office

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 20 — The former School for the Blind has a new team of developers with a new plan to create 60 housing units for senior citizens and another 72 units for moderate income or “workforce” housing.

“This is the right project, at the right time with the right team,” Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero said at a press conference Tuesday on the 38-acre north Lansing property near Pine and Maple streets.

The $24.4 million dollar proposal would see the auditorium building torn down and replaced with a new building development, while the Abigail building, which housed the administration of the former school, would be “repurposed” for housing. A third building, the old high school, would also be repurposed for housing,

The new proposal will bring Indianapolis-based developer TWG Development to the region in partnership with the Ingham County Land Bank Fast Track Authority and Cinnaire. Cinnaire was formerly Great Lakes Capital Fund.

This is the second time there has been an announcement of a development plan for the site. In June 2014, City Council approved a $15 million plan put forward by G.A. Haan Development of Harbor Springs Mich. That development would have created 44 units on the site but ultimately failed when the group was unable to secure support from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. The project was also halted when a contractor was cited by state environmental quality officials for improperly handling asbestos in the old facilities. The contractor, MAC Contracting of Lansing, signed a consent agreement with state Department of Environmental Quality officials to pay a $10,500 fine for the violations and agreeing to pay $10,000 a day in additional fines if they violated clean up rules again.

The new development team will ask the city for a Payment In Lieu of Taxes, or a PILOT agreement. Under that plan, the development would be created as a not-for-profit organization, and the agency would pay a set amount for each unit occupied, said Bob Johnson, director of neighborhood and community development for the city.

Todd Heywood/City Pulse

One concern that hampered the earlier proposal was crime in the area. A review of crime data provided on the city’s crime map shows that the area had many reported crimes between July of 2015 and Jan. 19.

“The developers have talked about adding a police substation,” Johnson said.

Bernero said if the developers and Chief Michael Yankowski determine a substation is needed in the development, he would support that move.

City Councilwoman Jessica Yorko, who represents the Fourth Ward, which includes the proposed development area, said she was pleased that the developers were engaging the community on the proposal.

“We know in this neighborhood there haven’t always been the best corporate neighbors,” she said. She was referring to the ongoing battle between Niowave and neighbors over a pole barn the company erected. Despite attempts by city officials to force the company to address concerns — including voting to revoke the company’s tax deals — the company has not lived up to agreements to improve the building's facade.

The developers will hold a public meeting 6 p.m. Jan. 28 at the Neighborhood Empowerment Center, 600 W. Maple St., Lansing.


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