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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