Apartments Could Replace EL Biggby

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East Lansing, Mich. (WILX)The fact that the original Biggby Coffee at 300 W. Grand River Ave. in East Lansing could be torn down is a travesty on its own to some loyal customers.

"This building is a staple," said Meredith Wolf, an MSU grad who lives in East Lansing. "It's an East Lansing icon. They can't tear it down."

Even more concerning though, what could be replacing that icon: a six-story, 1.24 acre apartment building that would stretch from one parcel to another, arching over Delta St.

"We have too many apartments," said Wolf. "I like Biggby. I don't want it to change."

Locals like Wolf are concerned with what will happen with the neighborhood surrounding the property. A local park could be completely hidden from view and the views from some nearby houses and apartments, altered.

"You wouldn't even know the park was there, I feel like with a six-story building," said Christina Orr, living in East Lansing for the summer. "It's open space. Knowing there's families here other than just students, that this is a family friendly place to be."

The height of the building bothers MSU Library Employee Ed Gildner too, who doesn't think apartments should be built in any capacity.

"I think there's a lot of underutilized housing and underutilized space already," he said. "I just don't think it's necessary or really good for the community."

More concerns came during a public hearing in front of the city's Planning Commission Wednesday night.

The public and members of the commission voiced their suspicions about increased noise, traffic and safety issues -- not to mention their property values.

DTN Management, which owns the property, did its best to put the public at ease Wednesday. Its chief construction officer Allen Russell gave a lengthy presentation to the commissioners promoting the new building as a "signature arch" designed to draw attention to the west entry to the city.

"I think everyone has concerns and that's fair with a project of this size," said DTN Vice President Colin Cronin. "If you're going to do a project this large, it demands a high level of scrutiny."

DTN wants to get the project going as soon as possible, Cronin said, maybe even breaking ground as early as this summer.

He said any building placed on the property would alter the view -- whether it's three stories or six.

It's just a fact of growth and, in our minds progress, in some peoples' minds it may not be progress, but when you talk urban planning and growth of towns, the more people you have downtown, the more spending power you have and the better the downtown can grow," Cronin said.

Biggby would retain space in the complex, on the first floor. A leasing office and a gym would also occupy the building.

DTN says there will be nearly 240 parking spots for the 160 studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments.

Before any plan can move forward though, the proposal will be looked over by several East Lansing Committees. Then it must return to the planning commission before heading to the City Council.

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