May 31 2016 09:00 AM

BWL, city and Habitat offer plan to save house from bulldozer

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Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero announces the proposed Scott Center move. (Back row, left to right: Dick Peffley, Vicki Hamilton-Allen, David Price, Bob Johnson and Brett Kaschinske.)
Ty Forquer/City Pulse

TUESDAY. May 31 — The Lansing Board of Water and Light, the city of Lansing and Habitat for Humanity have a plan to move the endangered Scott Center house and make it the centerpiece of a housing development.

The fate of the house is at the center of opposition by preservationists to the public utility’s plan to build a substation in Scott Park, where the Scott Center house and sunken gardens are located. The sunken gardens would be moved to an adjacent parcel, but the house must be moved or demolished for the substation to go forward.

“I’m here to announce a plan for a successful conclusion to the Scott House saga,”Lansing Mayor Virg Benero declared at a press conference this morning.

BWL and city officials are proposing that the nearly 100-year-old Tudor style house be sold to Habitat for Humanity for $1. In addition, the city would transfer 2.2 acres of land on the northeast corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Hillsdale Street, across from Union Missionary Baptist Church, to the housing organization for $1.

Bernero said the $2 investment will be leveraged into nearly $900,000 in affordable housing developments on the site.

Vicki Hamilton-Allen, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Capital Region, said the organization will invest $300,000 to move the house from nearby Scott Park to the now empty lot. She said the organization will then seek federal dollars for relocation and restoration costs.

“Our vision is to convert it into multi-family units, condo style,” she said. Hamilton-Allen also said the original Tudor revival style of the home would be maintained, and replicated in additional condo style units the organization plans to build on the site.

A site at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Hillsdale Street is the proposed new home for the Scott Center.
Ty Forquer/City Pulse
The plan could hit snags, however. The proposal by the BWL to replace the current park with a power substation has met with opposition, and it has not been fully vetted and approved by the city. The proposal remains tabled at the city’s Planning Commission, where members voted unanimously on May 17 to table the proposal for further consideration. Once the Planning Commission votes on the measure it will move to the City Council for approval or denial. The Parks Board as approved the substation plan, 5-3.

Bob Johnson, head of planning and neighborhood development for the city, said that failure by either Planning Commission or City Council to approve the BWL power substation at the current park property would make the Habitat project “that much more difficult” to achieve.

“I’m happy to see they are looking for a use for the property, but I would be much happier if they looked at use where it is now,” said Joe Vitale, head of Preservation Lansing. He said it was unclear whether the organization would oppose the Habitat proposal, but that the organization “had always” opposed any use of the house and garden other than on its current location.

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