Activity around the Gillespie Group’s Block600 project is driving interest in other properties the firm owns. That includes the former Clara’s Restaurant site at 637 E. Michigan Ave. Activity around the Gillespie Group’s Block600 project is driving interest in other properties the firm owns. That includes the former Clara’s Restaurant site at 637 E. Michigan Ave. COURTESY PHOTO

Gillespie Group leverages Block600 project for other Lansing properties

BY Sunday, May 26, 2019 10:59pm

LANSING — With developer Gillespie Group’s Block600 project nearly a month into its core construction phase, Lansing’s Stadium District is expected to be ground zero for new commercial development.

Gillespie ceremonially broke ground in early May, announcing that the project would consist of a new urban Meijer Inc. grocery concept dubbed Capital City Market and a 120-room Courtyard By Marriott hotel under the management of North Carolina-based Concord Hospitality.

MiBiz confirmed two well-known West Michigan companies are leading the building and design for the massive project. According to Gillespie Group officials, Rockford Construction Co. Inc. has been selected as the project’s general contractor, while Grand Rapids-based architecture firm Progressive AE Inc. is providing the design work. The appointments could be an even more lucrative deal for the firms involved as Gillespie Group owns several vacant commercial properties in the surrounding area.

Since announcing the details surrounding Block600, interest in Gillespie Group’s other holdings has grown, according to the company.

“We have a number of vacant commercial properties that are currently being sought after,” said Ashley Brezenski, marketing manager for Gillespie Group.

Whether Gillespie intends to sell or develop the properties remains up in the air.

“It could go either way. If we find the right tenant, we will gladly welcome them in. … If not, we may redevelop it as a company,” she said.

According to Brezenski, the two properties garnering the most interest are the former train station at 637 E. Michigan Ave., previously home for 38 years to Clara’s Restaurant, which includes a classic silver train car as part of the concept, and 500 E. Michigan Ave., the site of the former Beer Grotto and part of Gillespie Group’s original residential and commercial Stadium District project.

The company also owns 300 E. Michigan Ave., a dated multi-story commercial office building Brezenski said likely would be renovated top to bottom. When asked if Gillespie Group is currently in negotiations with potential buyers or tenants, Brezenski said the company couldn’t share any details at this time.

Still, for now the developer’s focus is on Block600. Labeled as a “game-changer” by all those involved, the development could kickstart a massive refresh to Lansing’s core downtown district, and the city certainly is pushing that rhetoric. While the project doesn’t include a housing element, affordable or otherwise, city officials are leaning on the new grocery store and hotel to fill a huge gap in the market.

“Having a downtown grocery store, the first new downtown hotel in 30 years … is all game changing for the city of Lansing. These amenities raise the quality of life in both the downtown and across the city,” said Valerie Marchand, communications officer for the city of Lansing and the Mayor’s Office. “There is significant workforce and affordable housing in the areas surrounding this development — Eastside, Urbandale and Downtown to name a few. We always support a mix of housing, but that doesn’t disqualify this project from being game changing.”

Marchand also noted the city is currently working on the new nearby Rotary Park, and other public spaces, such as Adado and Wentworth Park and a major stretch of the Lansing River Trail, all of which are very close to the development. For the city, adding an affordable grocery store is a key part of ensuring equity, as offering groceries in a food desert is tremendously important, officials said.

The Block600 project is leveraging $5.9 million in brownfield tax increment financing as well as a $1.5 million performance-based grant from the Michigan Community Revitalization Program via the Michigan Strategic Fund. The Lansing Economic Area Partnership assisted the developer in accessing the incentives.

Lansing-based PM Environmental Inc. and Huntington Bank also are involved in the project.

When asked if the company had plans to repeat the downtown market formula in other Michigan cities, Gillespie Group’s Brezenski said the company is open to doing similar projects in the future, but the focus is currently on developing and growing the Stadium District and surrounding areas in Lansing.

“We are optimistic that projects of this size, scale, and scope will continue to occur in the Mid-Michigan region over the next (several) years. The effort to mix uses within the same building and planning for multiple uses in major developments is what the market is demanding,” she said. “These spaces are also what the customers will be drawn to utilize. As we’ve watched and studied the growth of Columbus, Nashville, Grand Rapids and Detroit over the last 10 years, we believe that Lansing has room to mimic many of the projects that have been successful in those markets.”

Read 2632 times Last modified on Saturday, 25 May 2019 17:57