1 May, 2017

School for the Blind project date set

Former auditorium expected to make way for Walnut Park Apartments starting July 3. Tax credit for second phase of $24.4 million project still seeks state's approval.

LANSING — After nearly 20 years of inactivity, a portion of the Michigan School for the Blind site is expected to come alive this summer.

A $24.4 million project is expected to break ground on July 3, replacing the school’s former auditorium at Willow and Pine streets.

Construction of its first phase, a $12.5 million development called Walnut Park Apartments with 72 mixed-income, multi-family units, is expected to last 12 to 14 months. Starting in July, crews are expected to tear down the auditorium and conduct environmental testing before the four-story, 106,500-square-foot complex is built.

“We think everything is in place,” said Elizabeth Whitsett, TWG’s development director.

TWG eventually plans to build 60 units of senior housing at two historic buildings on the site. Plans call for The Abigail administration building, also known as “Old Main,” and the former high school to be saved and redeveloped. The developer is awaiting approval for a tax credit from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority for that part of the plan.

Whitsett anticipates that she will get word from MSHDA no later than mid-July. If MSHDA grants approval, both The Abigail and high school buildings could be ready for occupancy in about 18 months.

“It’s always a competitive process,” said Whitsett of waiting for tax credits “It’s always hard to tell what you’re up against.”

The Abigail, between Maple and Willow streets, will include 42 units of senior housing — 22 two-bedroom and 20 one-bedroom — and 62 parking spots.

The former high school will turn into 18 units of senior housing — nine one-bedroom and nine two-bedroom — and 25 parking spots.

The Abigail was the state-owned school’s administration building until the school closed in 1995. The auditorium also closed that year. Motown legend Stevie Wonder attended the school and is considered its most famous alumnus.
Rent for the units is expected to range from about $550 for a one-bedroom to $700 for a three-bedroom.

Tax credits for the overall project on the school site allow the developer to claim a credit against the tax liability annually for 10 years. The developer already has a 10% Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) incentive for the project, which would allow the developer to pay the city and other taxing entities 10% annually of the project’s revenue over at least 15 years.

Revenue would be generated from rent on occupied units after costs are subtracted.

Original article here.