LSJ: New Life for Douglas J Project in Downtown Okemos

A big reduction in the price tag for moving power lines means a jump-start for a Douglas J plan to reconstruct of a square block in downtown Okemos.

Representatives of Douglas J Salon & Spa and Meridian Township officials confirmed separately that raising some power lines and burying others will cost less than $400,000 total, about one-third the previous estimate.

Artist Rendering
Township planner Peter Menser said officials have worked with Consumers Power and other utilities, including Comcast and AT&T, to quote several possibilities. The most likely involves raising the high-voltage lines from 85 feet high to 100 feet high and burying the others.

The lines would also be angled away from the project site, which Menser said would accommodate Douglas J's design.

The $360,000 estimate from Consumers covers the area between Clinton and Methodist streets. Approximately half that area falls into Douglas J's property, driving the idea of a cost split.

Scott Weaver
Scott Weaver (Photo: Tammy Allen | for the Lansing State Journal)

What the township is willing to do financially is very much up to the township board, manager Frank Walsh said.

"We haven't had this public policy discussion at the board level at all, and this is certainly a board-level discussion," Walsh continued. "How does that 360 (thousand) get broken down, and do we want to pay those costs for our property?"

Another $15,000 would cover burying lines for Douglas J's property, a much-reduced rate based on credits offered by Consumers.

Douglas J president Scott Weaver said he anticipates a meeting with township officials will take place in the next couple of weeks.

The substance of the meeting, he said, will be how to fund and pay for the work.

"We're going to set up a timetable to get this done," he said.

Douglas J, which has had a presence in Okemos since founder Douglas Weaver moved his salon from East Lansing in 1970, intends to build two buildings on the site of three former businesses.

The corner spanning Okemos and Hamilton roads, the former home of the Travelers Club restaurant and the Triple Goddess Bookstore, would become home to a new 25,000 square foot, three-story salon and spa building.

Just to the west on Hamilton Road would be a three-story mixed-use building with retail on the first floor and a total of 12 apartments on the upper floors. The existing spa building would become corporate office space.

Douglas J bought the properties in 2012 from Comerica Bank for around $600,000 after they had fallen into foreclosure two years earlier. What to do with the power lines — especially in the wake of last December's devastating ice storm — has held up the project.

It's likely 90 days would be needed to do the line work, Weaver said.

The township's plans to sell the former Central Fire Station and the former bank building which houses the Meridian Asset Resource Center makes working together a necessity, Weaver said.

"This was the major thing — the township understands it's a joint responsibility. If they want to attract new development, it's a necessary step," he added.

"This gives us an opportunity to move forward with our plan. I think it is really good, strong progress."

The two properties, which together make up one acre, will hit the market sometime in March. A price has yet to be set.

Once an agreement is reached between Douglas J and the township, Weaver said Douglas J would work to finalize architectural drawings, request bids and generally get the project going.

If all goes well, construction could begin in late spring or early summer, with a possible opening for the spa in spring 2016.

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