Former Sears building hits the market for redevelopment

Gillespie charts mixed-use possibilities on Michigan Avenue

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THURSDAY, March 11 — The owner of the former Sears building near the Frandor Shopping Center is charting some big plans as the 14-acre property hits the market for redevelopment.

“We’ve had multiple meetings with site architects, site planners, real estate brokers,” said developer Pat Gillespie, President of the Gillespie Group, which bought the property in 2007. “Right now, I’d label it a mix of entertainment, retail and experience-driven stuff. We’ve probably had more than 25 different site plans drawn up. Nothing is hard and fast. It’s all a clean slate.”

Sears opened its doors in Lansing in 1954 and shuttered last year amid corporate closures nationwide. Gillespie said Sears still holds the lease through 2029, but has since employed Gillespie Group to put together redevelopment plans. And Gillespie is eager to get moving.

Bright orange “Now Available” signs were placed along the side of the building this week. Gillespie envisions a mixed-use concept that could potentially include a hotel, apartments and retail space — including a grocery market or another big-box-type store that could help anchor the plaza.

“It has some good bones. If I had to guess, it’s a combination of demolition and construction,” Gillespie said. “The lease with Sears is still active. They’ve asked us to go out and find occupants for the space to help defer some of those costs but it’s ready for redevelopment.”

Most of the 14-acre plot is a parking lot which encompasses a 196,000 square-foot retail store. Gillespie Group touts its “phenomenal visibility” from US-127 and “millions of dollars of new investments” that surround the site — including the Red Cedar redevelopment across the street.

Gillespie said the eventual redevelopment will also be able to tap into the student market, given its close proximity to Michigan State University. For now, possibilities are endless. He hopes a few “really big meetings” over the next few weeks will lock down a more stable, long-term plan.

“Obviously, I’m interested in getting this moving as soon as possible,” Gillespie added. “I’d at least like to be in the planning stages in 2021. I’d love to be working on the building in 2022.”

Gillespie’s sweeping redevelopment roster in Greater Lansing includes both new construction and projects that maintain historic buildings, often utilizing Brownfield tax incentives in the process. He said Sears property will likely involve a combination of all three of those elements.

“We really envision this as becoming lots of different things merged into one,” Gillespie added.

Sparrow Hospital has also been using the old automotive repair bays at the former Sears for vaccines and COVID-19 testing in recent months. That agreement includes a discounted lease with the healthcare provider “paying some expenses” like heating and cooling, Gillespie said.

And the eventual redevelopment plans — though still in the very early stages — won’t immediately boot Sparrow from the premises. The healthcare provider will be able to continue operating from the building “for as long as the community needs them,” Gillespie added. 

Click here to view the property listing from Gillespie Group. 

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