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Lmichigan

Richard Karp Planning a Mid-Rise in Old Town

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Sorry, but the Lansing City Pulse website is currently experiencing some difficulities, so let me describe the short news blurb...

The Pulse is reporting that Richard Karp, yes, of Arbaugh Loft fame, is planning to develop a multi-story loft condominium building in Old Town next door to the Rendevous to the west of the building, which would mean it would take up part of the city parking lot (or will it be all)?

The blurb goes on vaguely to say that the building will also include it's own garage with and elevator, which I'm guessing that would mean something fairly tall, probably one of the tallest structures in Old Town. The architecture, the blurb says, will be sensitive to the historic Old Town district. The ground floor will be saved for retail space.

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I've been waiting to here this news for years because it means that Old Town can become a self-sustaining and viable district. Hopefully, a few chains will join in on this eccentric district making it more of a destination. It's always good to have a mix of retail from independent shops, to small chain stores. Personally, I'd like to see something like a small, 24-hour Quality Dairy somewhere in Old Town, and a small grocery store in the mix somewhere. I doubt on Quality Dairy, because they don't seem to do urban infill. It's always a car oriented site with the building sit deep into the lot surrounded by parking instead of a corner-store set up. Anyway, this is further good news.

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If this goes through it would definately make Old Town stable. As it is right now Old Town is not sustainable, it requires constant investment to maintain its viablity, with a noteably sized building it will likely be able to maintain itself. Maybe, in time it can actually become an extension to downtown.

Mr. Fisher (if you are still around), didn't you say you had a connection with Karp. If so can you try and contact him to see if there are any details avalible for this project.

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I sent him an email last night. Maybe he'll get back to me.

BTW, Old Town is sustainable at the moment, but there isn't much to sustain. What I mean is that it has been stagnant and could remain that way, or could move up. It could never get back to where it was in the 80's, and even into the early 90's. For that to happen, nearly every single business currently there would have to pack up an leave. Old Town may not be much, know, but comparing where it came from to know it's almost impossible for it to go back to that time.

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I contacted him through the form on his site, see if that works...

Anyways I'm trying to think how tall I'd want something there, I would be happy with four floors, I'd prefer six and I would say absolutly no more than 8. What do you think?

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I'd really guess around 4-5 floors. This is one of the few areas where I don't want to see any true high-rises, and probably a 8-10 floor limit if it ever takes off. Not only would it be hard to find a suitable site, but would damage the village feel of the area.

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I agree any high-rises would feel very out of place in Old Town, besides the fact that I would rather see them downtown.

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I JUST got a reply back from Mr. Karp back, and it was only a sentence. All he said was that this is just a concept and no solid plans have been made...yet. I kind of wish the City Pulse would wait until these things get further in the development process before they leak things, because that can kill a project sometime when it's being scrutinized to heavily. I will try to get him to join up here, though.

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I know, it almost looked like a letter to the editor type deal that was put in as a regular story. But reporting on these things could also create an interest in a project, causing a concept to become reality, I guess it's a delicate balance.

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I know, it almost looked like a letter to the editor type deal that was put in as a regular story. But reporting on these things could also create an interest in a project, causing a concept to become reality, I guess it's a delicate balance.

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Well, unless some things have changed since I last chatted with Richard. The building would be 5-6 floors, again that 55' ceiling issue. The building would not take up much of the parking lot, which by the way is almost never more that 10-15% full. If you drive by the Rendezvous, you can see how deep that space is, there are three lots between the West side of the Rendezvous and the entrance to the parking lot. Richard owned one, Terry Terry owned one, and Paul Emery owned the other. Paul, retiring to Grand Rapids with his wife, sold his to Richard pretty cheap, so that kicked Richard into starting to put this one together. Terry Terry being sandwiched, then had a pretty useless lot, sold his to Richard as well, and providing a little money to, someday (which I wouldn't hold my breath) rehabbing the old Mustang. This potential project has been floating for a while, and probably won't get started for a quite a little bit, as the city leases the lots from the owners for the parking space, and to excercise the rights to vacate that use, requires a pretty significant lead time. Old town could definetly use a new retail space, that is large enough to house a larger business, most of the space now is pretty limiting. The building would definetley be the tallest in Old Town.

Here's a new one for you guys, Terry Terry is supposed to announce plans, and show off, his diagrams for the Mustang, tomorrow at the 'Wake up Old Town'. If past performance is any indicator of future results, this will be many many years off, but his plans are for a restaurant, with 1-2 lofts upstairs, but an expansion for his business up there too.

Also Robert Busby is adding a second story to the retail spot on Turner, next to Portable Feast.

As far as momentum for Old Town, Preuss animal house is rehabbing Jack's Automotive and moving there. Their business draws a great deal of traffic. Also the old Comerica is starting to show activity. So things are still moving forward in the district. Slow but steady.

I'm a little surprised that this one took so long to break, it has been swirling around for at least six months. The City Pulse is great at breaking the story first, I barely had my offer accepted on the Abrams building when they broke the news, almost to soon, as the plan was still in its infancy. Then again, by keeping their edge, they keep their readers, the Journal is way out in left field.

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It's really nice to hear some details. I hate having to wait until just before a project is ready to go to get any details. 5-6 floors is a respectable height for Old Town, tall enough to be it's centerpiece, but not too tall as to overshadow the entire area. I think to go any taller would be a mistake in this case (thats rare for me to say :) ). I'm a little confused, what building is the Mustang Bar? I've heard of it a few times but I never heard exactly which building it is.

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Hood, I believe the Mustang Bar is one of the old storefronts on the same side of the street as the CVB, maybe even RIGHT next door to the CVB.

And, the Busby building (one of many he owns in the area) is currently a small, one-story clothing store in between two taller buildings.

In fact, most of Old Town is owned by the few people that worked to bring it back and clean it up. They have a lot invested in this area, and hopefully it pays off before they are too old to really enjoy it.

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There are three storefronts on Turner streets west side that have not been rehabbed. One is 'Doc Bensons Building' that is next to the CVB, that is owned by John Sears (recently acquired), and will probably be rehabbed within the next 18 months (he just finished a rehab of a building on Island Avenue, next to the QD plant). John is currently in Mexico after this last project. John's rehabs are awesome, the one on Island Ave is beautiful!!!

The old Mustang is the two conjoined storefronts that have been decaying for years. Terry Terry has been using the building to store equipment for his business, Bluesfest, and Jazzfest. Terry Terry basically owns the OTBADA (old town business arts and development association), OTCA's rival organization.

Old town is owned by just a handful of people, the ones who took the risk to come up here. The good side of that is they turned garbage to gold, the downside is that it is like a high school click up here. Terry Terry is kind of a pain in the rear, he has had the Mustang for over 20 years, and the place is in shambles. He was trying to lease it to a restuarant for years, but refused to sell it to anyone, but the tenant would be responsible for build out, which would easily run 500k+, all to Terry's benefit and no benefit to the tenant.

I looked at both the Mustang and Doc Bensons before Abrams, and Doc Bensons was to small for my needs, the Mustang would have been perfect but Terry Terry told me that he didn't feel my business was the kind he wanted in Old Town. He said that it should be occupied by a restuarant or retail shop, which we then pointed out that his business was neither, of which he replied 'Well....I was here first'. His building is very cobbled together, and if he actually gets the rehab going on the Mustang, which may be a small miracle, it will be interesting to see if a restaurant will actually make it in Old Town. Everyone recognizes the need for one, however with Troppo and Majority shifting the focus back to downtown, IMO it won't make it.

The other buildings that have not been renovated, are owned by stubborn owners. The one on Grand River, next to the Tasty Twist, is owned by a farmer who thinks his property is worth a super premium, even though most of the developers down here think that it is almost to the point of no return. Then again this problem is prevalent everywhere.

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Yeah, it's a cobbled-together neighborhood, but hopefully, we'll see more outside developers with "big-city" visions instead of the "small town" attitudes that plague this city. Lansing's problem is not the lack of any building blocks to make a great city. All of those are in place, as I've said before, and many cities of similar size envy what we have to work with. The problem is the lack of vision, will, and/or fear of the unknown.

BTW, I wonder who's going to buy the Temple Club, and the other properties Ms. Barns had in the area? It's too bad we lost her to the islands, because she was one of the few with a grand vision for that area. I'm really banking on Preuss to show that the area can be grander than what it currently is.

On a slightly related note, I'm still wondering what the new Grand River Bridge is going to look like that they are replacing this year. I heard that MDOT has said that it will actually be pretty creative and will reflect the history of the area. One thing I've always wanted to see on all of the bridges in downtown Lansing are little outcroppings similar to what they have on the south side of the Riverfront Park Pedestrian Bridge (the old rail bridge), where one could take a rest and look out on the river. Really, it's simple things like this that can just make people feel better about their area.

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I completely agree about the lack of vison thing. Lansing as a whole has not had very many big time developers willing to build high-profile projects. That seem to be beginning to change, but it's too early to tell for sure.

About the temple club, it does great business and is probably the most popular club in Lansing. I'm sure it will sell easily and will probably change little.

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