Park Place West



  • This one goes before the planning commission next week. The figures in the staff review don't quite match the latest elevation drawings. Park Place East height is given at 159 feet in the staff report, while the elevation drawings show a 169-foot building.

    The staff report clears the project for consideration, though it appears neither buildings currently meets the height limits. Particularly, the shorter west building lies outside the bonus height boundaries, where 96 feet is the limit. As for the east building, they clear it on the idea that the 160-foot overlay would be approved, but I don't see that happening at all. Looking at next week's council agenda, it appears the planning commission rejected 2-6 the much more mild drafted ordinance of expanding the existing 140-foot bonus height district to the whole downtown zoning district. I don't know how city staff thinks that the proposed 160 overlay for the whole downtown district is just going to pass.

  • And, I called it. The developers are requesting an extension of the purchase and sale agreement for the land partially because of it looking like the 160-foot height overlay isn't going to pass. The agreement was originally supposed go into effect on April 1st, after the DDA (Downtown Development Authority) meeting today.

    The developers give a little background on a few things. The city was going to require them to build a plaza at the southern corner of Park Place East, and this forced the restaurant and retail out of part of he ground floor. To make up for that revenue loss, they added the 13th and 14th floors for additional apartments, which brought the redesigned height to 159 feet. To conform to the existing 140-foot height limit, they are now removing the added floors and redesigning Park Place West, to boot. The other reasons they are giving for the delay is that they think they may have included too many condos. Their lender requires 50-70% of units prior to construction starting. They say they think they could do that, but they don't want to risk it.

    Long-story short, between uncertainty about whether the council would pass the 160-foot height overlay for downtown - and it wasn't looking good - and uncertainty of the condo market, this is going back down to 12-stories, max, for the tallest building.

    They will be submitting new drawings and renderings April 15 for the April 16 discussion-only city council meeting.

  • edited April 2019

    Looks like the developers didn't meet their self-imposed April 16 deadline, but requested a rezoning to go before the Downtown Development Authority Board for their upcoming meeting. They say hey will have the site plans and such ready this time.

    In the event that the DDA decides not to go with Park Place, they are requesting that another RFP be released May 2nd:

    So, look forward to this Thursday to see if the current developers are ready for the DDA meeting. What's pretty clear is that these properties are getting developed one way or the other between the city needing to unload this debate and the land values being high in downtown, now.

  • Royal Vlahakis Throws a Hail Mary Pass.
  • edited April 2019

    I thought this was a really weird framing of what happened:

    City Council recently voted against a zoning ordinance needed to make the originally-proposed project work.

    This is not what happened, and the weird thing is that they link to their previous story on this that shows this is not what happened. What happened is that the 160-foot height overlay ordinance was apparently amended to remove all of the downtown zoning district (i.e. Park Place) from the overlay district, but the amendment was not "voted against," it actually passed.

    Anyway, this definitely seems like a Hail Mary pass, as the developers even seem to admit this was a rushed site plan that doesn't include what they say is a public market and affordable regular apartments.

    Man, I don't know. On one hand, Royal is looking very shady. On the other hand, the city and DDA have held onto this land and lost money on it for years, now, and I question how successful they'll be at running an RFP that'll find a qualified developer. At this point, I'm willing to give Royal one more DDA or Planning Commission meeting to deliver a completed site plan, but I could understand why some were not. Sounds like the DDA is giving them this one more meeting on May 2nd to see what they come up with.

    If they come with a site plan showing something other than a 66-unit student apartment building, it's something the DDA should seriously look at an consider. I like the idea that they said they are talking with MSHDA to add some moderate-income units to the mix. But as they showed it yesterday? Yeah, the DDA should move on to the RFP if that's all Royal is going to propose, now. This is one area of downtown I'd like to see a mix of uses like they had in their Park Place proposal.

    Still confused why they dropped the land they own from this project, though?

  • I would rather that the city move towards an RFP now. I don't know what Royal Vlahakis did to deserve an exclusive period.

  • edited May 2019

    So, Royal and Vlahakis have put out their final (rushed) revised site plan for this one showing the ground floor market, where they'd use part of Evergreen as a outdoor pavilion during the warm months:

    Time to pull the plug; this has gotten ridiculous and amateurish. All they had to do was work with the original Park Place proposal, and they put out this crap. The site plan drawings aren't even fully finished.

  • So, the DDA had the option to continue with Royal/Vlahakis or to put out an RFP yesterday, and it appears they voted to continue with Royal/Vlahakis:

    I'm disappointed with this decision, but it seems the DDA rarely ever recommends against a project. I doubt that when this reaches the planning commission, however, that they will recommend this one. And I seriously doubt when it gets to council that they'll approve it. Royal/Vlahakis need to realize that they aren't just wasting the city's time with this, but they are wasting their own time with this dead-end project.

    And, really, shame on the DDA to approve of a plan they gave this developer extra time to finish and still didn't end up finishing it.

  • Yeah, the exclusivity of this is so odd. Are there other developers knocking on the door for these properties? The city should have been trying to get rid of these properties years ago. Even if they sold at a loss years ago it would have been a savings over the amount being lost today.

  • I've not heard of any other potential buyers, but you'd have to assume with Park District and Center City going up a stones-throw away that there would be demand for this land. I originally noted my skepticism of the city putting together a successful RFP given how they've mismanaged these properties in my view, but after seeing that last "proposal" by Royal/Vlahakis, I'm willing to take the chance with the city going in another direction.

    Like I said, though, I'm curious to see how the actual city government responds to this. I just find it suspicious that Royal/Vlahakis is so concentrated on this DDA property instead of concentrating on developing on the land they already own next door. And they seem to be talking out of both sides of their mouths claiming that they couldn't get financing for the project on the land they own (Dublin Square), so then why are they proposing something similar on the neighboring DDA land if it's so hard to develop their own land?

    I don't get it. I don't get what's going on, here. It's also really embarrassing that the projects that seem to always have the most trouble in downtown East Lansing are the ones by local developers (Royal/Vlahakis and Scott Chappelle's version of City Center).

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