March 13 2013 12:00 AM

Restoration of the Knapp’s Center begins

George Eyde and a Granger employee ceremoniously start the 14-month construction phase for rehabilitating the historic Knapp\\\'s building downtown. Sam Inglot/City Pulse

Tuesday, Dec. 4 — After three years of the city and developers facing economic hurdles, restoration of the Knapp’s Center in downtown Lansing is formally underway. 

At a press conference this morning, George Eyde, a founding partner with the Eyde Company, the project developers, took to a cherry picker and helped remove the large “K” from the Knapp’s sign at the corner of Washtenaw Street and Washington Square in downtown Lansing.

Not only was it a photo-op and prime B-roll fodder, but it also served as a moment to commemorate the official start of the $36.5 million dollar project.

The signage, along with the rest of the building that was built in 1937, will be restored over the next 14 months. The plan is to have commercial, retail, office and residential space in the building.

There are “unique challenges with a building like this,” said Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero. He called the restoration and rejuvenation of the structure a “Herculean task,” an “incredible challenge” and an “incredible project.”

At one point during his time at the mic, Bernero stopped and asked for a moment to listen to the jackhammer-like sounds of construction in the background: “That’s the sound of progress,” he said with a smile.

The Knapp’s Center has sat vacant for 10 years. The past three of those have been spent trying to wrangle the financing for the restoration of the building, said Karl Dorshimer, director of economic development of the Lansing Economic Area Partnership.

Dorshimer says the project is using a $5.9 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development loan (the cause of delay), federal and state historic tax credits, Michigan brownfield tax credits, federal new market tax credits and local tax exemptions through a Renaissance Zone. The total incentive package comes out to around $20 million. The rest will be borrowed from a lender.

Dorshimer said because of the Renaissance Zone, the development won’t pay any property (personal or real) for 12 years. After the tax breaks expire and the taxes are phased back in, the city will cash in because the property will be worth “10 times more than what they’re paying right now based on the improvements to the property,” Dorshimer said.