Plans to redevelop Lansing’s former Sears property could be delayed by up to three years
Posted By: Lansing State Journal on November 26, 2023. For more information, please click here to read the source article.
Redevelopment of the former Sears property off East Michigan Avenue, which closed its doors more than three years ago, is turning into an exercise in patience for Gillespie Group, its owner.
It’s been more than a year since the local company announced plans to redevelop it as “a regional mixed-use entertainment destination” and started working with a commercial real estate agency to market the site to national retailers and restaurants.
This month, Gillespie Group’s plans for the property, which include spending millions redeveloping the nearly 200,000-square-foot building, received a boost with $1 million in state grant money through the second round of the Revitalization and Placemaking Program.
The funds are crucial to the project, said Pat Gillespie, CEO and founder of Gillespie Group, but won’t help the process happen any faster.
An effort to remap the area’s flood plain could stall the property’s redevelopment for up to three years, said William Engelter, Lansing’s emergency management chief; that’s longer than was initially expected by up to a year because of the project’s scope, he said this week.
Floodplain remapping stalls construction plans
It’s been more than a decade since the area’s flood plain, which includes Lansing, East Lansing and Meridian Township, was remapped.
The $380,000 U.S. Geological Survey and Federal Emergency Management Agency effort, funded in part by several municipalities, could impact which properties remain in the flood plain and change the height requirements for building redevelopment within the zone, Gillespie said. Construction can’t start until after the area is remapped, he said.
Initially expected to take up to two years to complete, Engelter said the remapping now could take until October 2026.
“They actually weren’t going to look at starting it until Oct. 1 of this year,” he said. “They have 36 months to complete it after the project start date. It’s all in FEMA’s hands at this point and completely out of the city’s hands.”
Gillespie said his staff are doing what they can to speed up the process, but it’s unclear when construction will start at the former department store.
National retailers, restaurants are still interested, Gillespie said
Sears occupied the space for more than six decades after moving from a spot in downtown Lansing in the fall of 1954. The store was a fixture in Greater Lansing for 66 years before it closed in 2020.
Gillespie Group bought the property more than a decade ago. The company has completed architectural plans and environmental reviews for the property’s proposed redevelopment, Gillespie said. The project is expected to cost between $60 million to $100 million, he said.
“We’ve done most of what we can do,” he said. “We’ve talked to a lot of tenants, users and they want to be there.”
Gillespie doesn’t believe his company will have trouble leasing the building, at 3131 E. Michigan Ave., but said potential tenants aren’t likely to sign a letter of intent until they know when the lease can begin.
“So we’re kind of like in a limbo land right now,” he said. “We’re following up with all the tenants making sure that they still have interest and know about us, but they just can’t commit to anything without having a date certain.”
And while national retailers and restaurants could lose interest in the former department store, Gillespie thinks it’s unlikely.
“I don’t see it,” he said. “The only thing that I get worried about is if the economy changes dramatically.”
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