Schor passes again on Granger’s alternative plan for a new city hall


MONDAY, March 25 — Mayor Andy Schor has rebuffed a developer's recent attempt to revive his proposal for building a new city hall in downtown Lansing.

In a strongly worded letter, Schor told Gary Granger, a developer from Wyoming, Michigan, that his proposal to redevelop the old Walter Neller building at the corner of Grand Avenue and Allegan Street “was not feasibly possible.”

Moreover, Schor called the site “a severely blighted vacant building.” On Oct. 27, the city placed the 86-year-old building on the “make safe or demolish” list after repeated attempts to get Granger’s company, which owns it, to clean it up.

Schor’s letter reiterated his determination to purchase the old Masonic Temple building,  217 S. Capitol Ave., and renovate it for a new city hall.

The Boji Group, which owns the Temple building, and Granger, partnering with the locally owned Gentilozzi Real Estate company, were the only developers to submit plans two years ago when the city requested proposals for a new home for city hall.

 Schor selected the Boji Group’s plan. However, the City Council killed a resolution two weeks ago to acquire the Temple building on a 4-4 vote. 

 The Council has approved accepting a $40 million state grant for creating a new city hall.

In a Friday letter, Schor told the Granger Group he’s still uninterested.

 He said he would not entertain the idea of using the city’s general funds for a new city hall, which the Granger proposal had called for. He also said the Walter Neller Building needs to be removed, adding that the city “could assume it is contaminated.” The letter said demolition alone, which would be at the city’s expense, would cost more than $479,000.

Schor also expressed frustration at Granger’s years-long failure to make the building safe. City Pulse has cited it as an eyesore at least twice. A tree is literally growing inside the building.

The letter said, “We have alerted you that this needs to be done many times, and it hasn’t been done yet.” 

The last straw, a source told City Pulse, was when a window fell out of the second floor, nearly hitting a pedestrian last summer, leading to the decision to begin the make-safe-or-demolish process against it.

Schor’s letter came as a response to a March 18 letter from Gary Granger offering to give the property to the city in exchange for exclusive rights to redevelop the existing City Hall, 124 W. Michigan Ave., and the Lansing Center, 333 E. Michigan Ave. Granger also requested the city’s help in developing the Waverly Golf Course in Lansing Township.

 To that, Schor said he was unwilling to consider “abandoning the long-standing proposal that we have for a hotel at City Hall,” referring to a 7-year-old proposal from Chicago developer J. Paul Beitler. The previous Bernero administration selected Beitler’s plan over those of local developers. However, Schor put it on hold soon after he took office in 2018 because Bernero’s plan for relocating city hall did not provide space for the police and courts.

Two years ago, voters solved that problem by approving a $175 million public safety bond issue, including constructing a new public safety building at 2500 S. Washington Ave.

 Schor also criticized the request to help develop the Waverly Golf Course, which he said could cost “upwards of $12 million.” Waverly was one of two public courses that the city shut down during the Bernero administration. 

 “As you know, this development is not even located in the City of Lansing, it is in Lansing Township, and you want the City of Lansing to invest significantly with our dollars,” he wrote.

 Granger Group's website lists a proposal for WestPark Flats, a residential development at Saginaw Highway and Waverly Road, the site of the old golf course.

Regarding the Granger Group’s request for the rights to redevelop the Lansing Center, Schor said it wasn’t possible to do so “without an opportunity to anyone else to bid on this project.”

 “We have limited time to get started on the new City Hall revitalization. Not only will the state dollars expire, but the legislature is looking at us to see what we are going to do before providing any further dollars,” Schor wrote.

The state grant will expire in September 2027.

 He added that the Granger Group proposal would cause “extreme delays” in that process, as well as future projects made possible through state funding. 

“It could also result in claw backs from the state if they don’t believe that we are spending their money appropriately. Additionally, the extra costs that the City of Lansing would incur from the general fund, enterprise funds, or future taxes as well as the costs to fix infrastructure in Lansing Township would counter any possible savings to the state that you are offering,” he wrote.

 The Granger Group did not respond to a request for comment on Schor’s letter. However, Jason Granger, Gary Granger's son, spoke with City Pulse after the March 18 Council meeting.

 “I don't think Andy’s very happy with me right now,” he said after he addressed the Council during public comment in an effort to revive interest in the Granger plan.

 Granger acknowledged that the Boji Group was “probably instrumental in helping the state bring $40 million in,” but said that proposal would cost more than their submission. He was also concerned that the RFP process wasn’t fair across the board and said he didn’t think bringing a developer like the Boji Group was necessary.

 “We told the city clearly in our RFP response that they don't need a developer,” Granger said. “It's a city building and city infrastructure — why have a developer in the middle of it?”

 Granger also criticized the plan to turn the existing City Hall property into a hotel.

 “It's an old building and everyone wants to hold on to it, but it's not sacred ground. There's an element that is important because it's right across the street from the Capitol — but to go and remodel that building? It doesn't make any sense,” he said.

 “Andy’s trying to do the best he can,” he added. I don't think it's any one person’s fault. I just think that outside influences have changed the way the city has been working.”

Schor’s office sent a copy of his letter to Granger to Council members, including 1st Ward representative Ryan Kost, who cast the lone vote against accepting the $40 million state grant for a new city hall two weeks ago.

Kost, who helped spearhead the 4-4 vote that stifled the plan to purchase the Masonic Temple building, agreed with Schor that the Granger Group’s proposal “isn’t feasible” after Schor shared the letter with Council members.

 However, Kost took issue today with the city website for promoting a public tour of the building from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday.

 “City Council rejected that proposal, and now all of a sudden they're touting one developer? That's a little concerning, and I think that’s maybe a line in the sand that I wouldn't have crossed,” he said.

 Kost also said that the 2022 bid from the Boji Group didn’t include the Masonic Temple building but instead pitched a renovation of a 63,736-square-foot property at 313 S. Capitol Ave.

 “We're going word-for-word on what Granger said,” Kost said, referring to Schor’s letter and the Granger Group’s 2022 bid. “But then we're going to go for this other project that doesn't even have an RFP? That’s the confusing part in all this.”

 With that in mind, Kost said it’s become “very clear to me that an RFP needs to be put back out.”

 However, city spokesperson Scott Bean said today that Boji revised his plan at the administration’s request to Boji and Granger after voters approved the public safety proposal, which reduced the space needed for a new city hall. Granger did not respond to that request, Bean said.

Kost also argued that the city should reopen the bidding process for a new city hall after the public approved the public safety bond issue in November 2022.

He said that became necessary because the original RFP process opened before Lansing voters approved a $175 million public safety bond issue that move police and courts into a new public safety building at 2500 S. Washington Ave.

 “That was the expensive part of renovating or moving city hall. That was the vast majority of the cost. Everybody should have another chance to bid on a much more scaled-down version of what we need,” Kost said.

 In his letter to Granger, Schor doubled down on his support for Boji’s plan.

Referring to Boji, Schor wrote, “The other bidder responded that he would actively seek a state appropriation and would make sure his proposal for development is within that appropriation. And he was successful," seemingly closing the door on Granger's hopes to step into the development.

Schor still needs to win over Council, however. The soonest the administration can bring another purchase agreement forward is 30 days from when the Council rejected the original purchase agreement with the Boji Group, which was March 11.

To succeed, Schor needs to win one more vote from among Kost and three at-large members, Jeffrey Brown, Trini Lopez Pehlivanoglu and Tamera Carter. All three have indicated a willingness to review the plan.

On Schor’s side on March 11 were At-large member Peter Spadafore; President Jeremy Garza, who represents the 2nd ward; Vice President Adam Hussain, 3rd Ward; and Brian Jackson, 4th Ward.

City Hall, Andy Schor, Granger Group, Boji Group, development, bids, Ryan Kost, City Council, grant,


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