Sources: Schor looking to work around Council on city hall plan

Hotel proposal to replace City Hall now at risk


Lacking the support of the City Council for its plan to move the new city hall to the Masonic Temple, the Schor administration is looking at options for another location that do not involve any input from the Council, sources have told City Pulse.

Moreover, sources said that the Chicago developer who wants to acquire the current City Hall for a high-end hotel has told the administration that if the Masonic Temple plan falls through, he will withdraw his plan.

  1. Paul Beitler, the Chicago developer, won approval from Schor’s predecessor, Mayor Virg Bernero, in 2017 for the hotel. But Schor put it on hold in 2018 because Bernero’s proposal for a new location for city hall did not include space for the courts and police.

Schor returned the Beitler plan to the front burner in 2022 after voters approved a $175 million public safety bond issue that includes new construction for police and courts separate from City Hall.

Beitler is “very nervous” about working with the current City Council, a source said. Three of four members who have fought the mayor on the Masonic Temple plan have been elected since Beitler submitted his proposal; the 1st Ward’s Ryan Kost and at-large members Trini Pehlivanoglu and Tamera Carter.

Schor acknowledged Tuesday that the City Council “officially rejected the Masonic Temple plan” as a result of a letter that the three plus At-Large member Jeffrey Brown sent him Monday that demands a new request for proposals for a new city hall. But Schor declined further comment on the letter “until I have had more time to study it.”

The letter questioned the mayor’s choice to continue backing the Masonic Temple proposal. It also raised concerns over transparency and some elements of the proposal itself.

“Overall, the people of Lansing have stated that they do not feel the process of biding (sic) and open transparency was delivered,” the letter said, referencing the city’s original RFP, issued in March 2022. Only two developers responded: Boji Group and Granger Group. Schor picked Boji.

The letter ended in a call for a new 30-day RFP process and for the city to hire a “credible outsourced entity to provide an unbiased scoring to select a winner.” Elsewhere, it cited the 100,000 square-foot, 7-story property as 40,000 square feet larger than what the city needs, questioned the rationale behind renovating a building that’s already older than the existing City Hall and expressed concerns over parking availability.

The administration has countered that it plans to lease the extra space, possibly to the Lansing School District, which would provide revenue for building maintenance. The overall plan would largely be covered by a $40 million state grant.

Brown wrote the letter, Kost said.

In an interview Tuesday, Kost noted that he had been asking the administration for a new RFP even before he joined the other three in rejecting an agreement to purchase the Masonic Temple, 217 S. Capitol Ave., from the Boji Group for $3.65 million at the City Council’s March 11 regular meeting. The Council was expected to reconsider the purchase Monday after the four had requested more time to consider it. But instead, they informed the mayor they insisted on restarting the process.

“If the Masonic Temple plan truly is the best deal, then there’s no harm in doing another RFP,” Kost said. “Once that process is done, whatever the best bid is that’s decided on is the one that I would be in favor of. That’s been my message all along.”

In response to Monday’s letter, Schor’s administration fired back Tuesday through a statement from his spokesperson, Scott Bean. He called the request for a new RFP “unprecedented.”

“The city does not put RFPs with winning bids out for rebid. This would make all future RFPs the City issues and awards worth little and would greatly discourage people from bidding in the future,” Bean said. “The RFP process provides for a winner if all requirements are met, and the others are losing bids. Allowing a losing bid to later come back and disrupt the process and undercut the winner would have a chilling effect on future development.”

But the four who signed the letter seem to disagree. On Kost’s end, he said he wants a new RFP because the initial round in 2022 included plans for new 54A District Court, police headquarters and lockup facilities in addition to a new city hall. The city’s needs shifted when voters passed a $175 million bond issue to fund a new public safety complex later that year, and Kost said a new RFP should have been issued to reflect that change.

In anticipation of the bond issue passing, Schor said his office contacted both the Boji Group and Granger Group and asked them to submit revised proposals. The former did so, offering the Masonic Temple as an alternative to their original proposal, which suggested 313 S. Capitol Ave. as the new city hall and police facility and 330 S. Washington Square for the site of the 54A district court and city lock-up.

Schor said the Granger Group didn’t revise its plan, which led him to select the Boji plan instead. After that, Boji Group president Ron Boji reached out to the state Legislature. The$40 million grant that resulted will expire if the city doesn’t settle on a new site by 2027.

With some Council members claiming that process lacked transparency, Schor’s administration points to language in the original RFP document that read: “The city reserves the right to accept or reject any or all proposals, waive any formalities or minor technical inconsistencies, or delete or modify any item/requirements from this RFP when deemed to be in city’s best interest.”

Schor’s administration maintains that it hasn’t done anything illegal, despite recent claims from Granger Group stating otherwise. In a letter to Schor, Gary Granger, a former Lansing resident whose company is headquartered near Grand Rapids, claimed the mayor was violating “Lansing laws” by refusing to reconsider his proposal.

Granger’s plan called for building a new city hall to lease to Lansing on the site of the Walter Neller Building in downtown Lansing. The structure is considered a major eyesore that the city has given up on trying to persuade Granger to fix after multiple attempts ever since Schor has been in office and has placed it on its make-safe-or-demolish list.

In response, Schor pointed to Granger’s dereliction in dealing with the Neller Building’s condition and his failure to respond to subsequent requests in the proposal process, among other shortcomings.

Last week, Gary Granger’s son, Jason, complained to City Pulse that the paper was not giving his company’s side of the story, but then he declined to accept phone calls from a City Pulse reporter seeking more information. Instead, Jason Granger texted City Pulse that the Grangers had decided to “let the public process take its course.”

On Monday, Brown and the others delivered their letter to Schor.



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