As Starbucks nears opening in former Clara’s, restaurant could be next

LANSING – Nine months after work began on redevelopment inside the former Clara’s Lansing Station, a 120-year-old station on East Michigan Avenue, its first incoming tenantStarbucks, has already taken possession of the western half of the building.

The Seattle-based coffee company hopes to open a community store there in late September, Starbucks spokeswoman Courtney Mains said in an email.

On Tuesday morning shifts were working inside the 2,800 square foot space. Outside, the property’s parking lot was redone and a drive-thru lane was added alongside the station tower. The train car where Clara’s diners often sat and ate their meals sported a fresh coat of paint.

The building now has two separate entrances, one for Starbucks and another to access the other half of the building., Redevelopment work to make the 3,000 square foot space and 1,000 square foot train car ready for a specific tenant the assembly is almost complete.

The Gillespie Group, which owns the property, has invested $3.6 million in the project, said Ashley Brzezinski, the company’s chief marketing officer, and it will spend another $1.2 million between now and be finished.

The property’s ideal scenario has always been to “bring the building to life in the early morning” and keep it active late into the evening, said Pat Gillespie, president of the Gillespie Group.

A glimpse of the former Clara's restaurant in Lansing, Tuesday, August 16, 2022. Under renovation, the former train depot will house a Starbuck's and another tenant that has yet to be revealed.

Starbucks is half of that equation, he said, and his company is negotiating a potential lease with a restaurant chain that, if signed, could complete the other half.

“Ideally, we’d like to put a user in the train car and on the other side of the building that activated it from noon to midnight,” Gillespie said. “It’s actually a perfect mix.”

Refurbish the building, keep some history

The structural integrity of the 637 E. Michigan Ave. station, which was built in 1902 as Michigan Central Railroad Station and then Union Station, fell short of Gillespie’s initial assessment. Group.

A glimpse of the former Clara's restaurant in Lansing, Tuesday, August 16, 2022. Under renovation, the former train depot will house a Starbuck's and another tenant that has yet to be revealed.

“When we bought him, we thought he was in a pretty strong position,” Gillespie said. “During the build, when you start exposing things, you start seeing things that need to be coded, updated, nothing too bad but it was more than we thought.”

The redevelopment of the century-old building has come with challenges, said Jason Kildea, director of facilities and project development for the company.

“There are just things you did in 1898 or 1920 that made sense at the time and today we look at that and think, ‘Why would they do that?

The work included bracing the brick walls inside the building, rebuilding the roof and adding new shingles. New windows, floors, plumbing and electrical were installed and the crumbling exterior brickwork was restored.

A preview of renovations taking place at the former Clara's restaurant in Lansing, Tuesday, August 16, 2022. The former train depot will house a Starbuck's and another tenant that has yet to be revealed.

“It had deferred maintenance and care for the past 10 to 15 years,” Kildea said, but the building also offered historic features that have stood the test of time. The goal was to preserve as much as possible, he said, including the wooden cathedral ceilings still visible inside the eastern half of the building.

“It’s amazing architecture, how it’s stayed pretty much intact from how I imagine they would have built the building originally. It’s just a testament to the ingenuity they had at the time without the tools we have now.”

READ MORE:

Mason Depot Diner reopens 3 years after fire

Slice by Saddleback opens new store in South Lansing

Township of Delta. officials tabled two tax proposals in November ballot

Negotiations to integrate a restaurant

Visitors will recognize the brick walls just inside the entrance to the eastern half of the building, where diners waited for a table at Clara’s.

A preview of renovations taking place at the former Clara's restaurant in Lansing, Tuesday, August 16, 2022. The former train depot will house a Starbuck's and another tenant that has yet to be revealed.

The columns above the archways in what was the restaurant’s dining room are still there. The same goes for some of the stained glass above the arches and windows.

“What you see right now stays,” Gillespie Group real estate coordinator Megan Weber said during a space walk on Tuesday.

The sit-down restaurant chain that is interested in the remaining half of the building and the train car has a handful of locations in Michigan, but none in the Lansing area, she said.

A preview of renovations taking place at the former Clara's restaurant in Lansing, Tuesday, August 16, 2022. The former train depot will house a Starbuck's and another tenant that has yet to be revealed.

“They would activate the liquor license tied to this property,” Weber said.

The Gillespie Group would deliver the space ready to build to its design specifications if a lease is signed, she said.

“I’m optimistic it will work out and hopefully we’ll find out within 30 days,” Gillespie said.

Contact Rachel Greco at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @GrecoatLSJ .

Comments are closed.