25 Jul, 2017

Work underway to transform School for the Blind campus

Patience has paid off for an Indianapolis-based developer who intends to revitalize one of Lansing’s largest historic areas.

Environmental cleanup is underway at Willow and Pine streets that’s aimed to transform the 40-acre former Michigan School for the Blind campus in the city’s Walnut Neighborhood.

Once the cleanup is finished this month to remove asbestos and lead-based paint inside a former auditorium, removal of it and construction of the first of three project phases is expected to begin next month.

“We’ve had to be patient and wait for things, but that’s kind of the name of the game,” said Joe Whitsett, CEO of Indianapolis-based TWG Development LLC. “You have to be willing to be part of the community instead of a developer that drops in and drops out.”

It took about two years for TWG Development to get all the necessary approvals for the $24.4 million project, including state tax incentives.

The company will tear down the former auditorium and make way for Walnut Park, a new housing structure along Willow Street. It will also redevelop two existing buildings: The Abigail, a former administration building, and the former high school that faces it.

Whitsett said crews are expected to begin work at The Abigail and former high school in January. He expects all three buildings to be ready for occupancy by March 2019.

Walnut Park will house 72 multi-family units — 38 two-bedroom, 18 one-bedroom and 18 three-bedroom — and 128 parking spots. Plans call for the $12 million building to be four stories and 106,500 square feet.

The Abigail will include 42 units of senior housing — 22 two-bedroom and 20 one-bedroom — and 62 parking spots. There will also be community and amenity space.

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

Fourth Ward City Council Member Jessica Yorko said Monday that TWG Development’s plans for the former school site meet an immediate need for affordable housing in the city.

 “Very glad to see this site getting the TLC it deserves,” Yorko wrote in a text message.

Rent for Walnut Park’s 72 units is expected to range from about $550 for a one bedroom to $700 for a three bedroom.

Walnut Park project secured this year a Low Income Housing Tax Credit from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

Tax credits for the overall project on the school site will 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. The PILOT will allow the developer to pay the city and other taxing entities 10% annually of the project’s revenue over at least 15 years.

Whitsett said TWG will work with residents in the neighborhood, including some who are blind, to make sure the development meets their needs.

Plans call for The Abigail to have a small museum in its basement that honors the school’s history and its notable attendees, including Motown legend Stevie Wonder.

Original article here.