May 27 2009 12:00 AM

Joel Ferguson is interested in buying the North Capitol ramp, but will anyone bite?

Michigan State University trustee and developer Joel Ferguson has confirmed that he has approached Lansing Community College officials and the Lansing City Council with an offer to buy the North Capitol Avenue parking ramp, the sale of which has been a wedge issue between Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and some members of Council.

"I want to buy it," he said. "I made a call to buy it, I would buy it — it just doesn’t look good."

It doesn’t look good, Ferguson said, because his offer hasn’t gained traction.

City officials have been trying to sell the ramp to LCC so that it can rehabilitate North Capitol and so that it doesn’t build a new ramp, which city officials claim would destroy any revenue coming into a city ramp. But the sale has failed to pass City Council several times due to what some members see as an unfair sale price.

Lansing Community College spokeswoman Chris Hollister called Ferguson a “longtime friend of LCC” and confirmed that he had expressed interest in helping the school acquire the ramp.

“The college has no formal agreement with (Ferguson) or any third party at this time,” Hollister said.

Ferguson said he would buy the ramp from the city (he would not say for how much: "I’m not going to negotiate in the papers," he said) and pay for repairs and then either lease or sell it back to LCC.

Ferguson has contacted Council President Derrick Quinney, who has supported the sale of the ramp to LCC from the beginning.

Quinney says he has had "initial contact" with Ferguson about moving forward with a sale, but he said the chat didn’t include any “serious” information — naming a price, for example. He added he would need more details before supporting a deal and would like to gauge the support of his fellow Council members.

"I’m certainly interested in moving (the ramp) off the city’s responsibilities. A considerable amount of money needs to go into it that we don’t have,” he said.

A May 11 bid to sell the ramp to LCC fell through on a 5-3 Council vote. The college has since announced it will pave an empty lot bordered by Capitol Avenue, Seymour Avenue, Genesee Street and Shiawassee Street while it studies building a new ramp at the intersection of Shiawassee and Washington Avenue.

At-large Councilman Brian Jeffries, who is up for election in the fall, had been against the sale, but he voted for it May 11, saying that he felt LCC was "holding a gun" to the head of the neighborhood near the ramp.

First Ward Councilman Eric Hewitt, perhaps the most vocal critic of the sale, said he had not heard about Ferguson’s proposal, but the problem he had with selling the ramp still stands.

"We have to make sure revenues and expenditures are covered," he said, and added that without the ramp’s contributing revenues to the parking fund, he doesn’t believe it will be "self-sustaining."

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