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Lansing eyes land swap deal with private college

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)
Lansing mayor Virg Bernero (left) sits with Davenport University president Richard Pappas at a news conference discussing the proposed land swap. The Oliver Towers stands in the background.

 Lansing officials hope a proposed deal with a private college will help the city replace a long empty public housing complex with a new campus.   The Oliver Towers have sat largely unused since a fire a decade ago.   Numerous attempts to find a new use for the site, a few blocks from the state capitol, have failed to pan out.

Enter Davenport University.   The private college is close to a deal to swap its current Lansing location with the Towers location.   Richard Pappas is Davenport University’s president.    He’s optimistic the deal can be finalized in the next few months, so construction of a new 10 to 12 million dollar building can begin in November, and hopefully open in the fall of 2012.  

“It’s important to be open for the fall semester. It’s fast. But we want to open in August of ‘12.”

Before the land swap deal can move forward, it needs the blessing of several agencies, including the Lansing City Council and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Mayor Virg Bernero is confident this deal can win the approval it needs.  

“It’s ambitious, but given the problems we’ve had with this site…I really think everybody is motivated to move…including HUD.”

A Davenport official says any delay in the approval process that delays demolition of the old Oliver Towers past November will probably mean the new campus would not open until the Winter 2012 or Spring 2013 semester. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.