May 1 2013 12:00 AM

Gillespie is in violation of development agreement, city exploring “legal remedies”

City Pulse file photo

Wednesday, May 1 — Local developer Pat Gillespie is in violation of a development agreement for his downtown Market Place project, the head of the Lansing Economic Area Partnership said today. The city is looking at its legal options for moving forward.

“We’re looking at our legal remedies,” said LEAP President and CEO Bob Trezise. “There are a number open to the city.”

Gillespie was not immediately available for comment.

The property for Market Place, on Cedar Street between Shiawassee Street and the Lansing Center, sits vacant. The old City Market was demolished for the mixed-used project. The city used the proceeds of the sale for a new City Market just west of the old one.

Trezise broke the news at a City Council Development and Planning Committee meeting today. The four Council members and even a Gillespie representative were unaware of the city’s plan.

Gillespie has been in violation of the development agreement since Jan. 1, Trezise said. “In the city’s opinion, the project should have been underway.”

The city contracts with LEAP on economic development projects.

Trezise said the city’s particular legal options could include the city’s taking the property back or at least coming up with a firmer timeline to start construction. “Clearly, that would be a good start,” he said of the latter option.

“We’re ready for action from our friends now,” Trezise said. “We expect this to be their No. 1 priority.”

It’s been six years since Gillespie and the city announced plans to for Market Place. Some of the earliest estimates were that construction was supposed to start in Fall 2009. When interviewed in August 2011, Gillespie said construction would start in early 2012. At the same time, Trezise told City Pulse the city didn’t “anticipate any need for formal legal action at this time.” It appears that time has come.

Market Place, made up of multiple mostly residential mixed-use buildings, originally had a price tag of $23 million.

The project has been scaled down to just one four-story residential structure, the committee was told two weeks ago by LEAP’s director of manufacturing and expansion, Steve Willobee. More could go up depending on the market.

Jason Kildea, of the Gillespie Group, said environmental cleanup is still taking place on the site. He didn’t say when construction would start.

Trezise said the project’s not dead and the project could still happen.

“There can still be a positive outcome to this,” Trezise said.