Dec. 23 2008 12:00 AM

The latest, but not last, plans for the new Lansing City Market were unveiled Thursday night. It’s a bit bigger, and there’s some new plans for parking, and that’s about it.

For a deal that sparked so much outrage and opposition this past summer, the unveiling of the latest designs for the Lansing City Market, which took place Thursday night at the Lansing Center, was sparsely attended. And, even more surprising, non-confrontational.

Sure, there was a little criticism. But the new designs, which are quite a departure from what was presented during the project’s approval this summer, aren’t about to cause upcoming City Council meetings to run upward of four hours.

There have been several notable changes to the plans for the new City Market, which would be built just north of the Lansing Center on Museum Drive. The new plans show a 13,000 square-foot space — about 2,000 larger than the plans released this summer.

"There have been significant changes," Eric Hart, director of the Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities authority, said Thursday.

Hart said that design sessions with the City Market Vendors Association produced suggestions that included moving the recycling and trash center indoors, changing the location of and enlarging the restrooms and adding three entrances. The most striking change, Hart said, is the addition of a large, sliding glass door, which would allow for larger displays — even cars.

Changes have also been made to the outside lower plaza portion of the market. The plaza is in a floodway, and Hart said that the state Department of Environmental Quality might recommend changes to plans during the permitting process.

The floor plan shows a “Grand Market Hall” with ceilings two stories tall and a wide-open floor plan.

Dave Vanderklok, who is with Studio [intrigue], the firm that designed the market, said the idea behind the design was to allow customers to “take in the entire city market two feet from the door.” Even better, if the new location and brand new building ratchet up demand for the space and for more vendors, a second floor U-shaped mezzanine could be added that would keep the open, great hall feeling while allowing for more vendors.

Not only is the market designed to be more airy and inviting than the existing market, it would be 1,000 square feet larger.

The plans were received with little opposition from those present. The only overtly critical response came from First Ward Councilman Eric Hewitt, who initially voted against the sale of the old market to developer Pat Gillespie before re-working the deal and joining the Council in voting unanimously to approve the project.

“I’m concerned that this is too plain, too ordinary, too static,” Hewitt said of the building itself and the facade, following it up with a reference to legendary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his axiom that buildings should be an outgrowth of the land upon which they are built. (Think of Wright’s famous “Fallingwater” home in Pennsylvania.)

The building is a touch plain, looking like a cookie-cutter suburban high school. But that’s the result of using a “pre-engineered” structure. It’s essentially a large barn of corrugated steel with a number of details added by the architects. But with a $1.6 million budget and a tight construction schedule (Gillespie is set to take possession of the old market Dec. 9) the chances of residents' having a modern architectural masterpiece for a market is nil.

Mary Swenson, an architect with Lansing-based Swenson design studios, doesn’t share Hewitt’s criticism of the design.

In an interview Friday, Swenson said she was happy a local firm was awarded the job of designing the new market and lauded Studio Intrigue for its land use choices. Asked to respond to Hewitt’s critique of the structure, Swenson said, “For a barn, it’s a really good-looking barn,” adding that the building is designed to facilitate the sale of produce. “Maybe the design would be a problem if they were trying to sell prom dresses, but they’re not. They’re selling produce,” she said.

Swenson also remarked that the architects had done a great job personalizing the building with urban details. Indeed, Vanderklok remarked that more finishing touches could be added in the final design, such as customizing the way the metal is corrugated, adding more color to the structure, etc.

Swenson said the design looks great, but a lot will depend on how the details come together and what types of materials the architects use in the finishing process. However, she said she was confident that the architects at Studio Intrigue were more than capable of executing their design.

The latest plans show about 60 parking spots, which is 10 more than what’s reserved for customers at the current market. The rest would be sold for permit parking. It is possible that, again, if demand necessitates it, additional spaces south of the Lansing Center can be used for market customers.

The new plans also call for “back-in angle parking,” which would make accessing the market easier. Vanderklok explained that drivers would pass their spot and then back in. The new method would allow customers to load their groceries into their trunks from the sidewalk rather than the street and provide better visibility when leaving a parking space. Vanderklok used Washington Avenue as an example of an area where traditional parking has proved difficult for drivers.

Hart said he expects final plans to be completed by March at the latest but is anticipating the plans will actually be ready by the middle of February. “We want to start building April 1,” he added.

The “best scenario,” he said, would have the market ready for vendors in October. The worst would see the vendors vacating the old market just short of the Dec. 9 deadline.

John Hooper, Lansing City Market operations manager, was pleased with the designs.

“I’m excited,” he said. “We’ve come a long way in 14 months.” He added that the planning process was far enough along that “new tweaks” and minor detail changes were being made on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

“We’re not done yet, but we’re really close,” Hooper said.

Looking at the floor plan, the absence of vendor “pods” is obvious. Hooper said that’s because the vendors will be responsible for creating the interior.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better site for the Lansing City Market,” he added.

To download a PDF of the Lansing City Market plans, click here

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