THURSDAY, Jan. 18 — Plans are advancing to move Lansing’s City Hall to the historic Masonic Temple building.
Announced in September by Mayor Andy Schor, the proposal to purchase the century-old building at 217 S. Capitol Ave. from the Boji Group will be introduced at the City Council meeting on Monday.
If it’s approved, the city would utilize $40 million in state grant funds to purchase and renovate the property. Schor said his goal is to occupy the seven-story, Classical Revival building by next year.
The proposal calls for paying the Boji Group $5 million. That includes $3.65 million for the building and another $1.35 million for a “visibility easement” on a parking lot adjacent to the north side of the building also owned by Boji, a Lansing-based real estate developer.
The Lansing Planning Commission unanimously approved the proposal in a special meeting yesterday, following a short discussion with Andy Fedewa the city’s principal planner; Rawley Van Fossen, the economic development and planning director; and Assistant City Attorney Gregory Venker.
Fedewa said the building, which features 109,826 square feet of floor area, would be about 20,000 square feet less than the current City Hall building at 124 W. Michigan Ave.
However, 54A District Court and police headquarters and lockup facilities will move into a new public safety complex at 2500 S. Washington Ave., for which ground was broken in October.
“Without those departments,” Fedewa said, other departments will have “some wiggle room in relocating into the new building.”
The move “gives the city a chance to reconsolidate or remaneuver how they set up offices, so we can better serve the public,” Fedewa added.
The parking lot visibility easement would restrict future vertical construction on that lot to preserve the views from new windows the city is looking to add as part of the renovation process.
“This would basically allow the city to knock out windows on that blank north sidewall, so it would be a little more welcoming,” Fedewa said.
Fedewa noted that “the agreed-upon purchase price of the subject property and the visibility easement with the seller is set not to exceed $5 million.”
“We’re using state funding to facilitate the renovations and the moving, so this won’t be any cost to the taxpayers,” Fedewa said. “So, we won’t have to worry about the $60 to $80 million to renovate the old city hall, and who knows how many tens of millions to actually erect a new building.”
When asked about a new City Hall timeline, Van Fossen said there’s no “hard start date on breaking ground” at the old Masonic Temple until the proposal goes through City Council.
“I can tell you though, on the city end, we’re actively engaged with an architectural firm on the design and layout. That’s happening now. So, we hope that, assuming approvals happen, and the deal is still on, we’re prepared to begin construction,” he said.
If or when it’s approved, Van Fossen said they’ll start the bidding process to find a developer to begin renovations at the Masonic Temple building.
“There’s also trying to work around the same timeline as the public safety complex, because that will have some uses as far as the courts and the police who are staying in the current city hall,” he said. “I can’t give you a hard start, but it will be a multi-year project.”
Meanwhile, the Schor administration is still in discussions with a Chicago developer who wants to buy the current City Hall and turn the classic example of mid-century modern American architecture into a top-tier hotel, Venker told the commission.
In November 2017, former Mayor Virg Bernero announced that he had selected a bid by the Chicago-based Beitler Real Estate Services to redevelop City Hall and renovate the former Lansing State Journal building, 120 E. Lenawee St., for use as a new City Hall.
But Schor scrapped those plans once he took office in 2018, citing the uncertainty of where the courts and police facilities would go. They were unaccounted for in the Bernero and Beitler proposal. The public's approval two years ago of a $175 million public safety bond issue, which included the South Washington Avenue complex that is under construction, eliminated that roadblock.
Several local developers had also submitted plans, which the Bernero administration rejected in 2017. In early 2022, the Schor administration set up a new round of proposals, but this time only Beitler submitted one, which was the same plan that Bernero had approved.
“Mayor Schor really, really likes the old Beitler proposal,” city spokesperson Scott Bean said last July, adding that the mayor was just waiting for plans for a new City Hall to fall into place before resuming discussions with J. Paul Beitler, who graduated from Michigan State University.
"Our plan is still to go with the Beitler proposal," Bean said today, adding, "He's still very, very, very interested."
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here