Oct. 7 2015 11:18 AM

Project seeks to transform neglected corner

An $8 million, five-story mixed-use development, partially plated with stainless steel left over from the construction of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, is set to go up at the southwest corner of Grand River Avenue and Bailey Street in 2016.

The East Lansing City Council approved the Stonehouse Village 6 proposal from East Lansing developers David Krause and Douglas Cron at a Sept. 15 meeting. The site application was submitted March 24, and construction is expected to begin in spring 2016.

The project would finally flatten the boarded-up former Taco Bell across the street from MSU’s ultra-modern Broad Art Museum. The eyesore has been a cause of embarrassment for the city the since the Broad Museum opened in fall 2012.

MSU President Lou Anna Simon called the derelict retail space — barely a stone’s throw away from the Broad — a “symbolic site,” a test of the museum’s vaunted potential to generate international tourism and spark economic development in East Lansing.

As early as fall 2012, at the museum’s grand opening, Eli Broad lamented the lack of spinoff eateries, galleries and shops across from his namesake museum.

“President Simon and former (Broad Museum) Director Michael Rush had plenty to say about that Taco Bell,” said Lori Mullins, senior project manager in the East Lansing Planning Department.

Krause and Cron bought the property in 2009, as they were wrapping up work on a similar mixed-use project, Albert Place, across Bailey Street from the proposed Stonehouse 6.

Cron, a former professor in the MSU School of Construction Management, hung out with contractors while the Broad was built and got a lead on some highly specialized, once-in-a-lifetime goodies that may have otherwise been scrapped.

“We purchased materials from the Broad Art Museum that either didn’t exactly fit or were just excess,” Krause said.

That includes stainless steel panels, fabricated at a Texas factory especially for the Broad, and some windows that didn’t fit and had to be made over. (The metal panels are actually an alloy of steel and molybdenum, specially formulated to fight off Michigan winters.)

Krause cautioned that the building’s design doesn’t try to emulate the Broad Museum. David VanderKlok of Lansing’s Studio Intrigue is the project’s sole architect.

“It’s a VanderKlok building, not a …” Krause said, forgetting Broad Museum architect Zaha Hadid’s name.

Krause went on to say that the steel and glass from the Broad will be mostly an accent, “to bring some of MSU across the street into East Lansing.”

Viewed from the Grand River side, VanderKlok’s design superimposes outsized sheets of modernist glass facing and a subtle steel armature over a fairly conventional commercial slab, faced in brick. Most of the steel is on top, with an intended effect of appearing as if the fifth floor is merging into the sky. The building crumples slightly into zig-zags and textural variations on the Bailey Street side. Old-school Spartan flourishes include green awnings and a green-framed central section.

Mullins said the project’s “inviting” architecture, along with a proposed patio and plaza along Bailey Street, will draw Broad visitors across the street into East Lansing.

“This is huge,” Mullins said. “This site is very, very important to downtown.”

The project revives hopes raised by early Broad Museum hype for restaurants and shops catering to an adult crowd — rather than the usual college fare — but Krause said he had no prospective tenants yet. The first floor is expected to house about 8,000 square feet of retail space.

“We’ve never pre-leased a commercial (project),” he said. “Tenants want to see what’s there. It happened with HopCat and the new Taco Bell. Once they saw it going up and what it was like, they wanted to move in. We let the market dictate that. But that’s quite a ways down the road.”