Downtown Development at Standstill After Council Blocks Tax Incentives

By: Sherene Tagharobi Email
By: Sherene Tagharobi Email

The Brownfields Tax Incentive encourages and funds cleanup and reuse of contaminated sites. That's what local developer Pat Gillespie of the Gillespie Group is trying to take advantage of to build "about 180 residential units, which would mean about 300 people to Downtown Lansing," he said.

But after a heated debate over Project Labor Agreements (PLA's), four councilmembers voted against the incentives Monday night. A PLA would require all workers to be paid union wages and benefits. But Gillespie says that's unreasonable for residential projects like his Marketplace.

He says it would limit his workforce because there aren't many contractors that do residential projects interested in working under a PLA.

City Attorney Brig Smith says the city can't legally mandate PLA's. Lansing Economic Development Corporation CEO Bob Trezise says at this rate, the project won't be realized.

"It's either going to look like that," Trezise said, gesturing to a project board, "or its going to be a surface parking lot"

The Lansing Economic Development Corporation says given its aging infrastructure and contaminated sites, the city is already at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting developers.

"We do not need political instability as part of that equation," said Trezise.

Gillespie says without the Brownfield Tax Incentive, greenfields look all the greener to developers.

"How can we grow as a city other than going to greenfield sites in the townships, greenfield sites in the suburbs and growing because all the sites left in Lansing are environmentally contaminated or have power lines running through them," said Gillespie.

Trezise says he's been fielding calls and e-mails from outside developers, turned off by what they've heard.

"How can any developer rely upon the city's trust or words that they will do what they said they were going to do?" he asked.

Trezise says he's optimistic the Council will change its mind.

Repeated calls to council members who voted against the incentive were not returned.

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  • by SLF on Oct 14, 2010 at 12:20 PM
    All these developers that aren't happy and don't want to come here...are they like the guy a couple of years ago who wanted to put up a lot of cheap manufactured homes on slabs with no footings? The guy who had every single permit he applied for from any place in the entire state pulled... The Mayor and several people in the planning department welcomed this one with open arms also. Thank God for strong groups of homeowners, and a great bunch of people on the city council. Lord only knows what they city would have had to clean up after him. Thanks we don't want just any old developer comming to Lansing. We want committed, honest businessmen..
  • by Anonymous on Oct 14, 2010 at 10:18 AM
    I am all for the cleanup, and I am not against development. But there are a couple of big expensive aprtment/condo projects downtown or near downtown with a lot of vacancy. I don't think that we want to have the most beautiful skyline around but its all empty. Find a way to bring in the jobs, that brings people back to MI. Then build housing that if affordable for the people to rent/buy. this is not NY city, this is Lansing, and we don't want to end up like Detroit, a lot of empty bldgs, and a lot of empty land. Find Businesses to go into the storefronts downtown, make it a place people want to go to not run from. A few events do not make a vibrant downtown economy. A lot of people who work downtown live within 15 minutes of work. They have houses and yards, they are not going to move downtown. Everyone needs to think a bit more realisticly. We don't need 180 more empty apratments. We need people to bring businesses downtown not build apartments.
  • by Sans on Oct 13, 2010 at 09:58 AM
    What big developer would want to come here to build anything? You drive around and there are hundreds of offices, stores, and apartments for rent. There are tons of bldgs and homes for sale. Just what does Lansing need with more empty bldgs? The state can not afford to build another bldg downtown. and MI is full of businesses struggling. IRMC just built, & hired an out of state contractor, who used their own out of state people, and used 90% materials hauled in from out of state. So what did the people and busineses of Lansing get out of this? Nothing! I think the City council did the right thing. We do not need a 180 empty expensive apartment built downtown. Very few people would rent them, and then we would just have another empty building. We need the money from taxes more than an empty building.
  • by Anonymous on Oct 13, 2010 at 08:26 AM
    The developer is a lier! No homebuilder is going to build this apartments. This is a commercial development per the city inspectors! So there are a good 2 dozen local Commercial Contractors to do the job. Over 90% of larger commercial projects require that you meet union wages. He prefers to use out of town contractors and non union workers as its less out of his pocket. The Stadium district bldg is almost empty. But he wants to build more empty expensive apartments downtown. I am really proud of the Lansing City Council, they did a good thing. We don't need to keep giving this guy tax breaks. We need people paying taxes so we can afford things like police, and fire departments. Snow removal in the winter and pot holes fixed in the spring. City workers working 5 days a week not 4.
  • by Anonymous on Oct 13, 2010 at 07:31 AM
    Gillespi just put up a expensive property across from the stadium, it is half empty, what use is expensive apartments and no one living in them. The City can not afford to give big tax breaks to a wealthy developer, as to Apts bldrs. This is not single family dwellings, and have to meet commercial development codes. There are a lot of local commercial contracts who pay union wages that would love to do the project. Almost every large commercail project demands using union scale for wages. Gillespi wants to use non union, out of state contractors and workers. Good for the City Council, great job!
  • by Anonymous on Oct 13, 2010 at 06:24 AM
    Who are these people moving into the apartments? Did they already live in Lansing area or are they from out of State? If they already live in Lansing they already pay taxes to the city. So how does the tax incentive helping? If they live out of state or from a diffrent city that's new money for Lansing.
  • by Anonymous on Oct 13, 2010 at 04:55 AM
    I am sorry but the city can not afford to give tax breaks to anyone. It might create jobs in the short term, but meanwhile the entire city work force is on part time. The city is closed on Fridays. So no to tax breaks. As to paying union wages, a great many jobs demand it, this is not something that the city is the only one using. Also the city council wants to use Lansing people on the jobs, not an out of state builder with out of state people. Good for the City council.
  • by scby Location: lansing on Oct 12, 2010 at 09:10 PM
    stopping progress again ,somebody better be chewing some counsel butts for this,what are they thinking,here you have some one wanting to build, and your gnna hassle them yeah more of the blown away strategy huh? how many people left this town for this same reason ,
  • by Anonymous on Oct 12, 2010 at 07:25 PM
    That is why these developers has two or more sites that they are developing at once so they can haggle the best deals.
  • by david Location: charlotte on Oct 12, 2010 at 06:14 PM
    so just because the city of lansing says that a company has to pay workers union wages and the company says no way the city is going to give up tax money dose anyone think that this ignorant this is why city state and fed budgets are so out of wack why they are always wanting more money get rid of the unions use non union contracters or watch your city die because no one will want to do bisness with you
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