When it comes to the Lansing area, some things remain constant. The Michigan Capitol and Michigan State University, built and established in the mid- to late 19th century, have served as iconic pillars connected by a thoroughfare. Over the years, this corridor and its surrounding areas have evolved, and now we are on the brink of a new era. Big things are happening in the Lansing area. Take a drive down Michigan Avenue or a stroll along Grand River Avenue and there is evidence of exciting brick-by-brick change.
From a state-of-the-art hospital campus to a downtown city market to new residential options, a new era of Lansing is forming. The changes to the Lansing landscape are thanks in large part to the businesses and creative minds behind these game-changing projects. It is their investment and dedication to the success of our area that continue to make the difference, drawing new talent to mid-Michigan while also retaining and serving the Lansing community.
We spoke with some of the Lansing area’s most recognized real estate developers and construction companies to learn about their current projects, why they have chosen Lansing as the anchor for their businesses and what they predict for the future of the Capital City.
That’s easy. Bring the Little Caesars Arena here. Bring what the Ilitches have done here to downtown Lansing. That’s your game-changer. You pull people from everywhere, being located centrally in the state. That’s my answer.
First, giving respect to my friends that are in this same industry as me, I’m really looking forward to Pat Gillespie’s project on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Larch. By far, that’s going to be a very impactful development to the surrounding area. What we’re most excited about in our portfolio are two projects. First, we’re just finishing up our Marriott Hotel in East Lansing off of Trowbridge. Finally, with what has already been done there with Kevin McGraw, and what we’re doing with the new hotel and retail, Trowbridge is going to be activated. It’s the only true thoroughfare into campus. If you look at it, it’s finally going to have the pizazz when the tens of thousands of people a week come in off of that thoroughfare to shop, live, play, work and go to school at Michigan State. It’s going to change the look of it. It has been in a dilapidated state for quite a while. Second, what I think is going to be truly transformational to the skyline of downtown Lansing is our acquisition and redevelopment of the Farnum Building. We’re going to bring a tremendous amount of activity. It’s going to be a multi-tenant office with some retail on the ground floor. Our attraction is to bring people from the suburban area, who are not able to have office space with views of the Capitol and parking, to look at downtown in a different light than it has in many years. We’re looking to attract the tech organizations or medical industry. We’re very excited about that.
As we celebrate our 20th year anniversary of Boji Group and looked at Lansing to start our real estate development career, it’s pretty easy. There are four foundational items that Lansing has that makes it separate from anywhere else. First, it’s the state capital, so the main government side is here. Second, it has one of the top major universities in the country. Third, it has a phenomenal health care business with Sparrow. And fourth, we have major General Motors plants and suppliers. When you look at those four fundamentals, within reason, we’re not going to hit the bottom and we’re not going to jump to the top. It’s always going to be a nice steady pace. Your state government will never move. Michigan State will not leave where it is. Within reason, Sparrow has no reason to leave. With General Motors, we’ve endured quite a bit, but it’s pretty foundational. That’s why.
What you need to do is not re-create the wheel. Right now, what millennials want more than anything is a community that involves live, work and play, and a walkable community. We have a very good walkable community within reason. We have decent mass transportation. Of the live, work and play, what we lack the most downtown is the play side of it. There are not enough entertainment district items. Yes, there are many, but there’s not enough choice. Some will say you need more people living here to do that, but it’s sort of the chicken and the egg. I feel what Pat Gillespie and others are doing on the residential side, the mass is getting there. We need to emphasize the play part. That’s where I see it.
Mark Clouse: One of the things that has been discussed is bringing an entertainment complex or auditorium. The Greater Lansing Symphony, which is terrific for our community, is currently using the Wharton Center. Having something similar to that on a smaller scale in the downtown area would be, we think, another game-changer. It would bring people downtown on a regular basis and give additional entertainment choices. We’re lucky to have the Lugnuts and Ignite at the stadium, but we don’t have that auditorium-use venue. We think that would be an outstanding addition to our community, bringing people to town on the evenings and weekends. That might not be a pie-in-the-sky idea, as many people have discussed it, so we’re hopeful to see that come to fruition.
Sam Eyde: We are excited to begin the first phase of a complete renovation to a downtown Lansing landmark: the Comerica building. This building located at the corner of Michigan Avenue and South Washington Square, which is anchored by Comerica Bank on the first floor and our newest tenant, MiSignal, an internet and PBC phone system company, on the 14th floor. We are renovating the interior offices and common areas to bring the facility up to a Class A standard. The location is ideal for area lobbyists, attorneys and other businesses that need to be located in the heart of the Downtown Central Business District.
Mark Clouse: We’re working on a property currently known as the Oliver Tower. We are working on changing the name of that as we redevelop it. It’s at the corner of Capitol Avenue and Ionia. It is 96 apartment units and will be a location for young professionals, perhaps people working downtown.
Mark Clouse: For Nick and Evemarie, their father, George, grew up in the city. This was his home, and this was their home growing up. With George smiling down upon us, his six children are now involved with the company. I think that is probably, for this group, why Lansing is so important.
Evemarie Eyde: For the six of us, we didn’t choose Lansing. Lansing chose us. Our father passed away a year ago, and he was one of the founders of this company. They founded this company in 1958. For our family, we went away to college and had careers internationally and nationally. We’re drawn back to this community by this business that our father created. We are not only drawn to the community, but committed, heart and soul. We are committed and drive to not only continue our family business, but to make Lansing succeed.
Nick Eyde: We’re in the capital city of a state that has five freshwater lakes around it that are outstanding. You look at that, and you realize when you’re out of the state or country that Michigan has so many amazing things. With Michigan State University in our area and the new FRIB, what it’ll mean to the community is huge.
Mark Clouse: One of the things our company is involved with and we’re seeing with the downtown area is bringing residents full time within our city limits. I think that’s something that we as a company are excited about, and business owners in downtown Lansing are excited about this as well. We’ve seen in our community just the same as others that the suburban growth takes away from the city itself. Last year was one of the first years we saw an increase in population within the downtown community. Now we’re seeing even more of that. I think that’s one of the things that we’re excited about. There are many downtown that are not only our projects but others. One of the great things about Lansing I think is that we have a terrific group of community developers that live in and care about our community.
We’re excited about Pat Gillespie’s project with the Capital City Market. As much as we’re excited about the Oliver Tower, I think that grocery will help us quite honestly, where people living downtown can shop downtown.
Nick Eyde: It’s going to be a game-changer. This is going to be the third location for an urban grocery store in Michigan after Grand Rapids and Detroit. When you compare Lansing to Madison and Columbus, that have these corridors from their Big Ten universities to downtown, you see this great development and interesting urban experiences. You go from the college to the Capitol. For Lansing, with the new restaurants and the urban market along Michigan Avenue, it’s pretty exciting.
We’ve done some sports-related projects, and mostly what we’ve done is at the university level. But from a community standpoint, to have some kind of an all-sports indoor complex to promote healthy living in cold-weather conditions, that would be pretty cool.
I’m glad that there are investments in infrastructure going on around the area. I think that’s wildly important. There are some upgrades to the Board of Water & Light and parking downtown. I think Lansing’s got an awful lot of potential, so I’m glad to see those investments. There is a lot of space to grow geographically. I would say the McLaren project is one of the jobs that we’re really excited about in Lansing.
The Granger family has been born and raised here in the Lansing area. There’s a strong sense of community, a sense of pride in the history the company has. When we go out to Michigan State University, we have either built or improved close to 50 percent of the buildings on campus. There’s a lot of pride there in those contributions. The work that we do, we cover the whole state. We have offices in Grand Rapids and Novi, and it’s nice to be centrally located in Lansing. It’s nice that you can get to an awful lot of places in an hour. I think what is exciting about Lansing is that there’s a really good mix of industries. You have the state government, our industrial background, education through LCC and Michigan State, and health care. The financial and insurance industries are pretty strong in our area. They’re making investments in their continued presence here.
I think institutions like LCC that are forward-thinking and offering the next generation of education, they’ll be growing. I expect MSU to continue to grow in terms of the research side. The presence and upcoming operations of the FRIB will bring a lot of research technology fields to this area. There’s a strong sense of community, and a draw of being adjacent to that lab, that it’ll be really great.
People are drawn to the resort-style feel of our communities. This past year, we executed on the grand opening of Elevation Okemos in June, after several years of careful planning and work with Meridian Township and various other community stakeholders. Elevation Okemos brings an upscale apartment community unlike anything else we have seen in this area, and since the grand opening in June, the Elevation property management team have been inundated with requests to host various community events in the clubhouse. We believe that more community-centric spaces should exist in our region.
Looking forward in 2019, we have the redevelopment of 735 Hazel St., commonly known as The Wing, due to begin in the spring with our partners under the banner of Urban Systems. The redevelopment of this historic building will bring a unique functional work and living space concept that also offers some greatly needed
Our focus is to provide a diverse range of housing to meet all cross sections of our community. Thus, our projects and joint ventures range from resort-style living, tradition single-family home lots, micro units and smaller homes such as the Tembo Homes.
We are excited to be working with the city of Eaton Rapids to transform an uninhabited former trailer park into a community of newly constructed homes. We are currently working through the requirements with City Council and the Planning Commission and hope to be able to begin our construction by spring/summer.
Our efforts, partnered with the city of Lansing and many other organizations, presented final products in Marketplace II, the second phase in our expansive apartments on Lansing’s river trail and the Grand River, and MP Social, a vibrant, modern and socially charged communal dining space with a great riverfront view and patio. In addition, we unveiled our biggest project to date in Lansing, set to redefine the heart of the city. Our 600 Block project, which is set to bring the city much-needed and highly requested amenities such as an urban grocer and hotel to the Stadium District, is the next phase in Lansing’s innovative and trend-forward growth along the Michigan Avenue corridor. We aim to continue to work cooperatively as a partner that puts our community first. This project is not only our largest in our hometown in terms of size, cost and completion time, but our biggest in terms of the impact it will have on Lansing, which is what motivates us above all.
In 2018, we had a firm focus on creating new spaces to live, work and play. Spaces that we believe will help to redefine the city of Lansing and spark interest in the minds of potential downtown area residents who have witnessed similar growth in other major cities. We envision them celebrating the passion and energy that exists in our growing region.
This past year was one the entire team at Gillespie Group won’t soon forget. As a team, we’ve worked tirelessly to bring new visions to life that aim to reenergize and support and build communities that will benefit the region as a whole – and many of those are simply the tip of the iceberg for what’s next.