June 14 2013 12:00 AM

More details emerge about former Barnes & Noble site in East Lansing, to be used for training new IT employees

Sources say the old Barnes & Noble space in East Lansing will be used to train new IT employees at Jackson National Life Insurance Co.

Friday, June 14 — Jackson National Life Insurance Co. will use the former Barnes & Noble bookstore building in East Lansing — a prominent retail space for 40 years — as offices to train new information technology employees, sources tell City Pulse.

A source who works on the same block as the building said fellow employees were told last month in a staff meeting that Jackson National will use the space for training new IT hires. A second source confirmed the space will be used for training.

They are the latest details to emerge about what the site will be used for after City Pulse first reported a week ago that Jackson National will be the next tenant.

Jackson National spokesman Matt Gring declined to comment today about using the space for training purposes and whether the insurance company plans to move in.

“We’re going to stick to the fact that we have nothing to announce. We aren’t able to comment on that at this juncture,” he said.

Interior renovations, which began three weeks ago, are being concealed by brown paper on the exterior windows. Jacobson’s Department Store operated in the space for 30 years before moving out in 2000. Barnes & Noble was in the space for 10 years after that. It has been vacant for a year and a half. An onsite construction worker said the building will be ready for office occupants by Aug. 1.

The building, at 333 E. Grand River Ave., is owned by City Center Partners II LLC. The resident agent of the company is Steven Roznowski, who is CEO and chairman of Lansing-based Christman Co.

East Lansing Planning Director Tim Dempsey said the city worked with the property owner to find a potential restaurant, retail or a grocery story tenant, but those efforts were unsuccessful. He also said it would be difficult to split the space up for multiple retail tenants.

Planning and architecture experts interviewed this week said that while maintaining the 35,000-square-foot space as retail would be ideal, office space is better than vacant space.

“Normally, you want something that draws people into town, which would be different types of retail or different types of restaurants. But seeing as we can’t have that, we have the best possible outcome for current economic conditions,” said Mark Wilson, a Michigan State University professor of urban planning.