Clara’s Lansing Station is being brought back to life as the Starbucks Community Store

LANSING – Renovation work on a historic train station on East Michigan Avenue, which used to be Clara’s Lansing Station, is expected to begin next week to make way for the building’s first tenant in five years – a Starbucks Community Store.

The Seattle-based coffee company has signed a lease to occupy approximately 2,800 square feet in the western half of the building, said Pat Gillespie, president of the Gillespie Group, which owns the property.

A Starbucks spokesperson confirmed the company’s plans to open a store there in an email on Tuesday evening.

The new location, Starbucks Michigan’s first community store, is expected to open next fall.

Until then, Gillespie wants to renovate and move into the entire building, said Gillespie.

All in all, the 120-year-old building, which served as a train station until 1972, will receive a new roof, windows, floors, plumbing and electrics, as well as a restored facade, landscaping and terraces.

“We really want to make it more welcoming to people,” said Gillespie.

Starbucks plans for the Community Store

Starbucks has been at the historic building at 637 E. Michigan Ave. since early 2020. interested, said Gillespie, and bringing one of the company’s community stores into the property is a perfect fit.

The former Clara building photographed on East Michigan Avenue in Lansing on Tuesday, August 24, 2021.  The property is being renovated by the Gillespie Group.

Since 2015, the company has opened 21 community stores in the United States, as part of an initiative to open 100 in total by 2025.

Community stores are often located in low-income communities with high unemployment, according to the company’s website, and the company “works with local nonprofits to facilitate relevant community programs.”

The stores also include “a designated space or space for community events and programs”.

“We’re very excited that this isn’t just a normal Starbucks,” said Gillespie. “There is a special flair to immersing yourself in the community and celebrating the history of the community.”

The store will have a drive-through order lane on Pere Marquette Drive, Gillespie said, and an outdoor deck with seating for more than 30 people.

Starbucks intends to incorporate the building’s history into the store’s plans, he said.

“When their architects came and looked at the building and got pretty excited, they got us excited just because they saw the possibilities of what an old building can be,” said Gillespie. “They wanted to play it off, not just ignore it.”

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Room for a second tenant

Gillespie Group will convert the remaining half of the building into a second suite that will include the property’s railroad car. Together it offers a little more than 4,000 square meters of space.

The interior of Clara's Lansing Station restaurant train car can be seen in a file photo from the Lansing State Journal.

The goal, Gillespie said, is to find a tenant who will give the community access to the rest of the building.

Both office and catering businesses have expressed interest, he said.

“We’re actively marketing it and we’re having some good conversations with some prospects right now, but nothing has solidified,” said Gillespie.

Additional patio space will be created on the property overlooking Michigan Avenue.

“Then we are planning at least one pocket park along Michigan Avenue that will have greenery, flowers and benches,” said Gillespie.

The property’s fencing is due to be expanded this week, he said, and work inside the building is likely to begin next week.

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

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