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Businesses sign petition opposing new housing project in downtown East Lansing

Affordable Housing project in downtown East Lansing
Posted at 4:54 PM, Aug 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-10 09:43:17-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The city of East Lansing has been building up, especially in the downtown area where space is tight.

Lot 11, also known as the Bailey Lot, could be home to the next tall project, affordable housing. However, that could mean losing a portion of a flat-surface parking lot, and some businesses aren't happy.

The Wild Goose Inn is one of several locally-owned businesses along the stretch of Albert Avenue in downtown East Lansing.

“There's three rooms in this house, and there's three rooms in the back house," said Manager Paul Martin. "They all have the same amenities, they're just themed differently."

Opening in 2002, Martin said they've seen a lot of change to the area over the years. Those changes could soon include a new project right next to the bed and breakfast that city leaders are now considering.

“This project came out of nowhere," said attorney of Protect East Lansing Access Jefferey Hank. "It was a seeming lack of transparency that alarmed all the local businesses and many of the residents in this neighborhood because it affects how we live, how we shop, how we walk, where we take our families.”

American Community Developers has proposed a five-story, 122-unit affordable workforce apartment building in the Bailey Lot.

A portion of the parking lot is owned by the city, while the remaining parts are privately owned by two families, who lease the land to the city. The developers entered into a contract with the private owners to buy the land for the project.

The current project proposal would take the parking lot from 120 spaces to just over 30 remaining spaces.

Hank said building on the surface lot and taking away most of the parking spaces for the surrounding businesses isn't the way to create affordable housing.

“If the parking is taken away with the design that's being proposed, it could destroy most of these businesses, which are some of the last unique businesses we have in East Lansing," Hank said. "It also takes away our cultural space for art festivals, jazz festivals, folk festivals, all the things that we've become used to having down here.”

The Wild Goose Inn isn't the only business to show opposition to the project. Hank said 20 other businesses and 210 individuals have signed a petition hoping the city reconsiders the plan.

“What we're hoping is that members of the Planning Commission and members of City Hall and the East Lansing City Hall staff, take the time to put together a proper project that is not going to harm the local businesses and residents,” Hank said.

Martin said it isn't the project that's the problem.

“I'm all for low income housing, but not the way they're doing it,” Hank said.

They're biggest concerns are lack of transparency saying they only received notice of the project two weeks ago.

“The Planning Commission agenda it came out last Friday, and then, notice that meeting came out shortly before that," Hank said. "So almost all the businesses that we've talked to, again, the 20 plus that have signed that petition already, were completely unaware that they might lose parking for their patrons.”

Along with their concerns for access to parking and the future of local businesses in the area.

“As far as parking and the convenience factor, it would affect all the businesses on this block," Martin said. "Especially in the winter, not many people want to walk too far in the cold.”

The first public hearing for the project will take place at Wednesday night's Planning Commission meeting at the Hannah Community Center starting at 7 p.m. People will be able to speak about the project for five minutes. No formal action or vote is expected at this time.

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Mikayla Temple

Mikayla Temple

1:39 PM, Jan 05, 2021

Your Neighborhood Reporter

Mikayla Temple

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