Have the tables been turned on Mayor Schor’s city hall dreams?


An agreement to buy the Masonic Temple building downtown and turn it into Lansing’s next city hall looked poised to pass last week when City Council members met as the Committee of the Whole.

But a short time later at the Council meeting itself, it lost on a 4-4 vote after three members who supporters expected to back it didn’t.

Sources said the outcome caught the plan’s backers off guard, from Lansing Mayor Andy Schor and developer Ron Boji to union leaders and Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce executives.

The purchase is part of a bigger picture that would allow the Schor administration to move ahead with plans for a Chicago developer to turn the current City Hall, across the street from the state Capitol, into an upscale hotel.

In tandem, the two plans would save two historic buildings: the current City Hall, which is an architecturally important example of mid-century design, and the 100-year-old Masonic Temple two blocks away on Capital Avenue, which has been empty for years.

Before the vote, only Ryan Kost of the 1st Ward had said he would oppose the proposal.

“I thought I was going to be voting alone, or that maybe one or two other people might vote with me. I was surprised at what happened after that,” he said afterward.

Councilmembers Jeffrey Brown, Tamera Carter and Trini Lopez Pehlivanoglu joined Kost in rejecting the administration’s plan to buy the building at 217 S. Capital Ave. from the Boji Goup for $3.65 million.

“Boji’s jaw dropped,” said one source who was eyeing the developer during the meeting. He added that Boji, who treated Brown to lunch recently in Birmingham, thought he had Brown’s support. Neither Boji nor Brown responded to requests for comment.

During the Committee of the Whole meeting, Lopez Pehlivanoglu supported the plan.

“Two weeks ago, I was in a different space where I really wasn’t sure if I was comfortable with this or not. I’m grateful that we had more time than we did previously to ask questions and have those questions answered,” she said, referring to a two-week delay on the vote. “I will say that I do support the project.”

Brown called the plan “an amazing opportunity for us to have a new home for the citizens of Lansing to get the service they need.” But he added that he had some concerns.

“While this is a great thing, I’m disappointed at the process. I feel we need to be more transparent for our constituents and our community, as well as for me as a councilperson,” he said.

In Carter’s case, she said she “wasn’t 100% sure on” the sale, but she thanked the Boji Group for making themselves available to answer questions. She added that she was “looking forward” to seeing what would happen with the current city hall, 124 W. Michigan Ave., were the purchase approved later that evening.

When that moment finally came — and as Brown, Carter and Pehlivanoglu’s positions became clear — each prefaced their opposition by indicating a need for greater transparency in the process.

While Kost was firm in his opposition, the other three said they weren’t necessarily against the plan but instead wanted to take more time to deliberate, since the city has until September 2027 to spend a $40 million state grant to purchase or build a new city hall. The Council voted 7-1, with Kost opposed, to accept the $40 million for that purpose.

“We’re talking about three years,” Lopez Pehlivanoglu said. “I do want to see a project going forward. I do believe that will happen. But I would feel more comfortable taking more time and making sure that we are going step by step in a transparent process.”

But any delay could be costly if Chicago developer Paul Beitler finds reason to walk away from his proposal to turn the current City Hall into a hotel. Beitler has been waiting since 2017 for action on his plan. Efforts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.

The 4-4 decision was a setback for Schor on the eve of his seventh State of the City speech last week.

When asked about the vote after his speech that night, Schor said he “had an idea” that it would pass but added that he didn’t have commitments from Councilmembers going into the vote.

“One member said he wanted a smaller project, and I respectfully disagree,” Schor said, referring to Kost. “The other members said they wanted to hear more. We’ll provide that and then see if we can move forward on it. If we can’t, we’ll look at alternatives.”

“We’ve got some time, but not a lot. The longer you wait, the more costs go up,” he added, also noting that the $40 million allocation alleviates any burden the project could otherwise place on taxpayers.

Boji’s downtown efforts took another hit Monday when members voted 6-2 against his plan to purchase a city-owned, surface-level parking lot at 425 S. Grand Ave. to develop into housing with over 100 residential units.

Councilmembers Brian Jackson and Peter Spadafore voted to sell the lot — which the city purchased in 2008 for $960,000 — to Boji for $760,000. But Hussain, Brown and Kost thought the lot could garner better offers, citing the eventual arrival of New Vision Lansing, a three-building, $227 million downtown housing plan and other projects.

Schor and other proponents of the two Boji plans must now head back to the drawing board to drum up the support they’ll need.

On Monday, Schor’s office launched a webpage (www.lansingmi.gov/1219/New-City-Hall) outlining the Masonic Temple building project plans in greater detail. Meanwhile, the Boji Group has partnered with Preservation Lansing to schedule a building tour from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday (March 27).

To turn things around, the administration needs to sway at least one of the three members not named Kost.

Brown and Carter declined to talk to City Pulse about their motives this week.

Lopez Pehlivanoglu said, “I don’t make these decisions lightly.”

“As a newer Council member, it can be a bit overwhelming when you’re faced with tens of millions of dollars going toward each project, because you’re trying to decide what the right thing to do is without rushing anything. When that vote came and some of my fellow Council members started speaking up, it really spoke to me that we do have an opportunity to take more time on this.”


Lansing, Michigan, City Council, municipal, government, meeting, Committee of the Whole, Ryan Kost, Trini Lopez Pehlivanoglu, Adam Hussain, Peter Spadafore, Andy Schor, Mayor, Tamera Carter, Jeffrey Brown, Brian Jackson, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, unions, Jeremy Garza, City Hall, Masonic Temple building, projects, grant, development, state, Boji Group, Ron Boji


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