Urbanizing Downtown East Lansing: The Center City District project seeks to strengthen East Lansing’s urban core

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For decades, East Lansing has been identified as the home of Michigan State University. In some ways, the association with MSU has overshadowed the city itself, but all of that is subject to change if a $132 million redevelopment plan is approved by the East Lansing City Council.

Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors, from Illinois, and the Ballien family, who have owned the Student Book Store and several other storefronts on Grand River Avenue for a number of years, brought forth the $132 million plan with the hopes to make East Lansing a more attractive destination to visit or live. The site redevelopment plans would occur on the 100 block of Grand River Avenue and Albert Avenue and would include two 12-story buildings. One building is projected to house enough space for a major grocery chain to move into the area as well as provide additional student housing in the downtown district. Target has confirmed they will be moving to East Lansing and occupying the 22,000 square foot retail space. The other building will include a 6-story parking garage with 6 additional stories above to accommodate senior (55+) living.

The redevelopment plan was first brought to the city for consideration in January of this year. Since then, it has been moving rather quickly through the city’s different departments, leaving several businesses with unanswered questions and little time to get them answered. Businesses are worried the redevelopment will take too long and hinder their sales, or that they won’t see any additional revenue but will still have to help pay the redevelopment costs. While only five pre-existing businesses (Charlie Kang’s, Sundance Jewelry, Noodles & Company, Clever Clover Boutique and Verizon Wireless) will be forced to move from their current location if the development’s site plans are approved, Noodles & Company is the only business who has found a spot to relocate. They will be moving to the old Conrad’s Grill building on the corner of Abbott Road and Grand River Avenue sometime this summer.

However, business owners aren’t the only ones questioning this redevelopment. Several residents, though they aren’t opposed to the redevelopment, also have their concerns about this fast-moving plan. Some are worried there isn’t actually a market for a redevelopment like the one being proposed and that residents will end up paying taxes for enhancements to the city that weren’t needed in the first place. Others are worried the construction may close down Albert Avenue for too long, affecting where they normally go shopping or out to eat.

Improving and further urbanizing downtown East Lansing is a major step for the city. Of course, many residents have their opinion about the project, which the city is taking into consideration. Whether or not the redevelopment plan will be approved and enacted is still being decided on, though if it does, you can expect East Lansing to look a lot different the next time you come to town.



Jonathan Shead is a senior studying professional writing and journalism. Outside of writing for ing he is also the Managing Editor at Impact 89FM, MSU’s nationally-awarded student-run radio. His passions include storytelling, basketball and playing the drums. When he’s not writing, he can be found jamming out to the latest music or exploring the documentary section of Netflix.


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