Aug. 29 2013 12:00 AM

Lansing Housing Commission hosting public open houses at Oliver Towers as part of effort to sell it — bring your flashlight

City Pulse file photo.

Thursday, Aug. 29 — The Lansing Housing Commission is actively trying to sell its abandoned, eight-story Oliver Towers building downtown and will host two public open houses next week in an attempt to gauge redevelopment interest.

The Housing Commission, which owns the building, moved out of it last week and into offices on Cherry Street that were once occupied by Davenport University, Housing Commission board Chairman Tony Baltimore said today.

The Housing Commission may end up issuing a formal Request for Proposals to redevelop the property, Baltimore said, but for now is bringing in the public to see if there’s any interest.

“This at least starts the process,” he said.

The open houses are 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sept. 3 and 5 at 310 Seymour Ave. downtown. The building lacks electricity, and the Housing Commission is asking participants to sign a waiver before walking through due to liability issues and to bring a flashlight.

The Housing Commission has planned to move out of the building for years. Various redevelopment plans have surfaced since a fire in February 2000 made most of the building uninhabitable. None of those were successful. Built in 1968, the eight-story high-rise building served as subsidized housing for about 100 apartments for low-income senior citizens.

The latest controversy swirled in 2011 as the Bernero Administration announced a tentative land swap deal that would have moved Davenport University into the structure and the Housing Commission into Davenport’s former campus at Cherry and Kalamazoo streets. Lansing Community College protested the deal because it felt it had been cut out of redevelopment plans even though LCC had an interest in it. Davenport eventually bailed out of the land swap due to the controversy with LCC and found a different location on Allegan Street. 

“It’s really been frustrating just because after the Davenport deal fell apart, we were looking to move ahead,” Baltimore said. “So now we’re going to open this thing up and see what the interested parties are and move ahead.”

Baltimore said there have been interested parties in acquiring the property, but he declined to give specifics.