Seniors Sought for Planned Downtown Rental Apartments

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Monday, December 3, 2018, 1:10 pm
Alice Dreger

Above: a rendering of the project along Albert Avenue showing the senior housing above the parking garage

Developers of the $132 million Center City District project, under construction in the heart of East Lansing’s downtown, are now actively seeking people aged 55 and up who are interested in renting the planned apartments on the project’s north side.

Visitors to downtown have been seeing the Center City District apartment tower along Grand River Avenue go up quickly. The marketing for the Landmark on Grand River Avenue (below) is now aimed at student renters and young urban professionals. There will be an urban-style Target store in the first-floor space, including an urban-format grocery.

The senior housing of Center City, called Newman Lofts, is planned for an entirely separate building just north of there.

Newman Lofts will be built above the new public parking garage being constructed along Albert Avenue. The image below shows the parking garage as of yesterday, with the new first-floor retail space along Albert Avenue being faced in black brick. As ELi reported, there’s one tenant so far for that retail space, Foster Coffee.

To be built above the new Albert Avenue parking garage on the east side, near M.A.C. Avenue, Newman Lofts is designed to hold about 92 market-rate rental apartments – not owner-occupied condos – restricted to people aged 55 and up. For these apartments, the developer has promised high-end finishes, balconies, an outdoor amenity deck, and parking (for an extra charge) in the new parking deck.

What will the rental apartments cost?

The developer now has a special advertising website up in an effort to attract tenants to Newman Lofts. It is currently shows a total of 88 apartments available, and provides floor plans.

The smallest apartments, with one bedroom and one bathroom, start at $1,595 per month (base rent) and go up to $1,895 per month. These are approximately 745 square feet in size.

The largest apartment is advertised as having 1,232 square feet of space, and includes two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a “den.” The den is designed with a door, making it a possible third bedroom. The top apartment price listed is $2,730 per month (base rent).

All of the apartments appear to be designed with balconies, but about half of those balconies face the alley behind the building. Just across that alley is The Landmark, which at 12 stories high will be taller than the senior housing in Newman Lofts.

As you can see in the photo below, taken yesterday from the top of the parking garage above CVS, The Landmark’s back windows will face Newman Loft windows and balconies across the alley.

When are they expected to be available, and has there been interest among seniors?

Banners along the construction fencing have indicated the senior housing is supposed to be available for move-in by Fall 2019. But that seems like a stretch, given that there’s no significant sign of construction occurring above the parking garage. [Update, December 6: Panels are now going up for housing over the new parking garage structure.]

Back in October, co-developer Greg Ballein said that about thirty people had expressed interest in renting at Newman Lofts, including about eight MSU professors. But that was before the developers launched the special website, which features attractive renderings and promotional material about downtown living. (The Balleins are in partnership with Harbor Bay Real Estate in this venture.)

Why senior housing here? Why this type?

Back in February 2016, City Council passed an ordinance aimed at trying to diversify housing in the downtown area, to get something built other than a lot of student rental housing. At the time, Council included Erik Altmann, Ruth Beier, Shanna Draheim, Mark Meadows, and Susan Woods.

Under that ordinance, large downtown redevelopments were required to dedicate at least 50% of their planned housing units to “mixed market rental units . . . [or] as housing offered to and restricted to residents 55 and older or as condominiums.” The hope was to address the perceived lack of senior housing and to increase resident demographic diversity downtown.

But developers told the City Council this ordinance was unworkable. They said the market was such that they could not fund and fill such space.

In response, in November 2016, City Council amended the law with Ordinance 1384, which required that big downtown redevelopment projects dedicate at least 25% of their housing units to something other than student rentals, namely to “owner occupied housing or housing offered to and restricted to residents 55 and older, restricted to low to moderate income housing or restricted to some other occupancy that would add diversity to the area.”

That’s the law that forced the Center City District developers to build something other than just typical student housing. These developers decided to go for 55+ rental housing above the parking garage. In the case of the DRW/Convexity project about to start at the vacant property downtown, the developers opted to build moderate-income housing.


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