Another Push for Power Station Redevelopment

By: Tony Tagliavia
By: Tony Tagliavia

The City of Lansing is once again making a push to redevelop the old Ottawa Street Power Station downtown.

The 60-year-old Board of Water and Light facility has been mostly vacant since the early 1990s. Countless redevelopment plans have come and gone since.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is confident this redevelopment push will be different.

Friday, he made the first step toward getting the Ottawa Power Station back in use -- and back on the tax rolls.

"It's historic. It's architecturally significant. And we think it could be a linchpin across from the convention center -- just tremendous possibilities," Bernero said, before touring the old plant with city engineers and development officials.

Just what those tremendous possibilities are -- will be up to developers. The city's Department of Planning and Neighborhood Development will ask developers for their ideas sometime in the next two months.

The city wants to see the vacant station become a "mixed-use" development, that is: A combination of residential and business tenants. Ideas making their way around development circles include condos, apartments, retail -- even a top-floor restaurant overlooking the city.

The department won't say how much they'll be asking for the property. In the past, deals have hinged on the city selling the facility for $1 -- the head of Lansing's planning department says developers should expect to pay more this time around. The city hopes developers take advantage of state and federal redevelopment funds.

"Environmental funds, waterfront funds, obsolete property funds, historic property funds," Bernero said, listing available grants.

Redevelopment is possible, in part, because, city voters approved a referendum last year allowing BWL to sell part of the land. Under the referendum, even if the land is sold, part of the property closest to the Grand River will remain public.

It's one of the tallest and most prominent buildings in Lansing, but with the cost needed to redevelop it, will developers step up the plate? The city's development chief says, "yes."

"Several in-state developers (are interested). One or two in the greater Lansing area. Interest from the eastern end of the state. One outside the state of Michigan."

Planning and Neighborhood Development Director Bob Johnson says downtown's rebirth could come at a fast clip if a major icon is transformed.

"Without question in the top five, dare I say the top three. People are always asking, what are you doing with the power station?"

It's a question the mayor's office hopes to have an answer for soon.


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