March 18 2013 12:00 AM

Developer says he’d sell the North Precinct to the city for $3.4 million

Monday, April 23 — When I asked him nearly two weeks ago how much he’d sell the Lansing Police Department North Precinct property to the city, developer Harry Hepler — who owns the building — wouldn’t give details.

At tonight’s City Council meeting, Hepler said he got to thinking after our interview. “I hadn’t really thought about it until it came up. Then last week I asked (associate Steve Purchase) to pull out an appraisal. We need a base understanding of the value,” Hepler said tonight.

Turns out Hepler is willing to sell the 24,000-square-foot North Precinct — and another 117,000 square feet of additional space — to the city for about $3.4 million (which includes interest). Hepler said the portion the city rents out of Prudden Tech Centre (the larger facility that holds the precinct, as well as his business) was appraised for $3 million late last year.

Hepler sent his proposal in a letter to City Council members. It comes at a time when the city of Lansing is looking to consolidate its police operations into one, city-owned building to achieve long-term cost savings. However, the Bernero administration has indicated a strong desire to move operations into an old National Guard armory at 2500 S. Washington Ave., the South Washington Office Complex. The city bought that building from the state for $1 last year, and an adjacent piece of land for $22,000. A consolidation study done by Lansing-based C2AE contemplates the costs for both sites, said C2AE business development manager Kevin Feuka.

“This proposal represents a real offer to the City from the Prudden Tech Centre as an alternative to the SWOC, and is hopefully just one of many that come to the table through an open vetting process,” Hepler’s letter says.

Randy Hannan, Mayor Virg Bernero’s chief of staff, said he was unaware of Hepler’s proposal after tonight’s Council meeting.

“We’re open to any number of options. The data says: It makes more sense to own than rent,” he said. “We’re looking for a suitable venue for a police station that makes the most sense.”

However, the administration is proposing to spend nearly $650,000 in both General Fund and new millage revenue for engineering and design work on a new police headquarters and it has referred to the old armory as the most likely destination. Moreover, the city says in its budget proposal that it will cost between $3 million and $14 million to renovate the armory. Comparatively, Hepler’s proposition comes at the low end of that estimate.

“The Administration continues to move toward vacating the city’s leased space and consolidating police operations at the city-owned South Washington Office Complex (SWOC).  The FY13 EBR includes $450,000 in capital costs associated with design and engineering of the building renovations needed to transform SWOC into a fully functional headquarters for the Lansing Police Department, which is expected to cost between $3 and $14 million, depending on the scope of the project,” Bernero’s budget proposal says.