Lansing to adopt flood-prone streets at Red Cedar project

Contract to force developers to cover repairs, maintenance costs

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THURSDAY, April 21 — The Lansing City Council will vote on a resolution next week that could formally turn the roads in the Red Cedar redevelopment project into public streets — including one at the edge of the floodplain that will routinely become impassable throughout the year.

But taxpayers needn’t worry about the extra costs of adopting a new flood-prone roadway: Developers at Continental Ferguson have promised to foot the bill for maintenance and repairs tied to the issue.

“Both parties are motivated to have this maintenance agreement in place going forward to abide by the development agreement — everything we’ve spent the last eight years of our lives trying to figure out,” project manager Christopher Stralkowski told the City Council’s City Operations Committee yesterday. “It’s all part of the spirit of the development agreement.”

Construction at the former Red Cedar Golf Course has been underway for about two years. The “game-changing” 36-acre development, as it has long been billed, is designed to connect the Capital City to Michigan State University and include two hotels, market-rate housing, senior living, student housing and other public amenities like an amphitheater and public park space.

University Edge and Gateway Lofts are open. Senior living at Red Cedar Lodge is set to open this summer. Other portions (including a restaurant in the middle of it all) are under construction.

The last iteration of the development agreement, which was approved by the Council in April 2020, spelled out plans for developers to privately finance the $260 million project rather than lean on a $38 million in city bonds. About $54 million in future tax revenues from the site, however, are set to help reimburse developers for infrastructure work, including for roadways.

As part of that development agreement, the city agreed to dedicate the streets there as public streets — essentially adopting them within its municipal system and ensuring that businesses within the complex remain accessible to the public. The routine move could also marginally expand the city’s potential road funding from the state. It would also normally stick the city with the newfound responsibility of repairing and maintaining the streets — but not in this instance.

Another agreement being negotiated this week between the city and the developers will require Continental Ferguson to cover portions of the costs of maintaining and repairing the streets, officials said. And that includes an easterly stretch of the newly named Red Cedar Parkway, which is expected to flood three to five times annually, regularly ice over in the winter, require closures and additional maintenance like clearing debris and, as a result, deteriorate much more quickly.

“That’s going to take a toll on the street and its condition,” explained City Planner Andy Fedewa, noting that it was “tough” to estimate precisely how quickly that road would need to be repaired.

A portion of Red Cedar Parkway is expected to flood 3-5 times annually.
A portion of Red Cedar Parkway is expected to flood 3-5 times annually.

The city’s Planning Board reviewed the proposal this month and recommended the City Council approve the street dedication on Monday night — but only if the extra flood maintenance costs are fully covered.

Assistant City Attorney Greg Venker expects to have that contract finished within the next week. The pending agreement is also set to earmark a small portion of the city’s state road funding specifically for improvements and maintenance at the roads at Red Cedar, Venker said.

“Otherwise the developers bear the costs,” he explained to the Council committee.

Developers said the streets will not feature bike lanes and instead will look more like “local streets” with sidewalks. A report filed with the Planning Board also notes the city will be responsible for parking enforcement at the development when the streets are dedicated.

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