March 26 2009 12:00 AM

The developer of the new Lansing City Market and city officials say that construction of a new market is on track.

Preparations for construction of a new Lansing City Market are on track, say city officials, and groundbreaking could come as soon as mid-April.

Eric Hart, head of the Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Authority, which oversees the market, said that preliminary bids for a contractor to construct the new market are due by the end of this week. Three weeks after that, final bids will be due and a contractor will be selected. After that, shovels will hit the ground.

Because the new market’s structure is pre-fabricated — Hart likened it to an airport hangar or an ice skating arena — the actual structure would go up fairly quickly, within about 30 days. Most of the work will go into preparing the site for the building, which will be located southwest of the existing market, close to the Lansing Center, Hart said. The first and most extensive work will be for electrical and sewage infrastructure — not only for the market, but for Pat Gillespie’s planned Marketplace mixed-use complex, which will eventually rise where on the site of the existing market — plus grading to raise the new market out of the flood zone.

The Lansing City Council approved Gillespie to buy the market in August for $1.6 million. Over the winter, he has had payment deadlines due to the city each month in varying amounts. Gillespie says that he has made all his payments so far and will make the final payment in April, which will allow him to close on the property.

“Everything is so far, so good,” Gillespie said. “The payments have all been met.”

Gillespie also said that he has met with the state Department of Environmental Quality and has submitted permit applications for the new market and Marketplace.

Gillespie said that the economic situation has been looming, but not hindered his making payments to the city for the city market property. However, he said he wouldn’t be able to start Marketplace until “10 to 12 months” after the new City Market is completed. According to the development agreement with the city, the new City Market must be completed by Dec. 1, otherwise the city will have to enter into a lease with Gillespie for the old City Market. The old City Market will not be vacated or torn down until a new one is completed, according to the development agreement.

City Market manager John Hooper says rumors that the new market is already full are untrue. However, he says “most” vendors at the City Market have submitted requests to have space in the new market.

“If everyone who has expressed an interest stepped forward, we would be close to capacity,” Hooper said. “I can’t say right now that all market space has been taken up, but I’m very, very optimistic that it will be.”

Rents at the new market will be 30 percent higher, Hooper said. He said that the increase in rent would be balanced by lower utility costs to vendors, which will keep rents down in over the long term because the new market is designed be more energy efficient than the existing one.

“Everybody is really excited,” Hooper said. “There’s nothing foreseeable that would stop the closing (on the property) from taking place.”

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