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LMich Aug 31, 2009 8:25 AM

Not sure I see the demand for this, but there has been talks for years now about using boat service to connected the city's three city center nodes (REO Town, downtown, and Old Town):


Developer envisions waterway, cruises right through Lansing

Michael Patrick Shiels
For the Lansing State Journal

August 30, 2009

Most great cities have rivers, but Lansing's river is grand, according to Pat Gillespie. And he'd like to give residents and tourists the grand tour.

Gillespie, the creative visionary who heads up the Gillespie Group, headed to the shoreline of the Grand River last week and climbed aboard a deck boat he'd chartered to show off Lansing by sea.

Gillespie's new idea? To create waterway and dinner cruises through the heart of Lansing. This exploratory evening sailing showed off the scenic, wooded views near the Potter Park Zoo; striking, urban scenes such as the Accident Fund building rising above the river; and culminated by going ashore in Old Town for some chic nightlife.

'An eye-opener'

"I'd like to give more people to the opportunity to see how cool our city looks from the Grand River. You actually can spend an evening outside enjoying the river in Lansing," said Gillespie, who cites San Antonio, Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, Fort Lauderdale, and Jacksonville, Fla., as towns that have benefitted from making their inland waterways accessible.

"Right now we have people living on the river and walking or running along the River Trail. The new State Police Headquarters, the Accident Fund Headquarters project, and the creation of the New City Market and Marketplace are examples of development on the river happening right now. I want our region to get a positive vibe by using the waterway we have because one trip down the river is an eye-opener."

The city at night

The boat trip immediately felt like an adventure - like exploring an uncharted passage. The startled, curious looks from people walking along the River Trail revealed there must typically not be much pleasure cruising on the Grand River.

MSU students, for instance, could theoretically kayak from campus on the Red Cedar River all the way to Old Town - and back - if they wished. Like us, they would be treated to heavily forested areas more like Northern Michigan than the state Capitol.

Gillespie revealed points of interest as we floated down two different arms of the Grand River, with Captain Scotty Straner, of Pinckney's Chain of Lakes Boat Tours, gliding under overpasses and train bridges.

"A county zoo, a widely used children's museum, a public theater group, historic automotive plants that once drove our state's industry, a car museum, an operating coal plant, a decommissioned coal plant that is now being restored, a new $185 million-dollar corporate headquarters, and a $35 million-dollar office building getting ready to open," said Gillespie, playing the role of an excitable Willie Wonka before showing off the site of his new City Market project right on the river.

"We have the ability to dock at the first, true Lansing downtown - Old Town - and walk a short distance for nightlife and appetizers. And on the way you pass the unique Brenke Fish Ladder."

Other passengers onboard said they enjoyed seeing Lansing above them at night with all of the lights and unique architecture. Some were amazed at seeing - for the first time - the riverfront facilities the Lansing Center offers. Other compared the experience to Chicago or Columbus. Some of the views along the river, obscured by trees, seemed to be begging to be opened up.

"The best part by far was the trip downtown and seeing just how close the downtown district and Old Town really are. It helped me understand the importance of pulling these two areas together," said the Gillespie Group's Rachel Michaud.

Vision for future

The cruise left many wondering why there isn't some sort of dining facility or restaurant on the Grand River.

Gillespie is the sort of fellow who asks that very question, "Why not?" And he often answers it with action, and investment, instead of just theory.

"Wait and see. In 10 years, none of us will even recognize Lansing," he said.

In September, Gillespie plans a week of informational cruises with media members, city officials, and potential investors to share his vision of enjoying Lansing from the water.
One thing's for sure, if Gillespie wants this to happen, he'll see that it does one way or the other. He's not a bullshitter.

LMich Sep 4, 2009 5:03 AM

(New) Lansing City Market steel - September 3rd

Photos courtesy of LEPFA (Lansing Entertainment & Public Facilities Authority):

LMich Sep 4, 2009 5:06 AM

Lansing just passed a "complete streets" ordinance a few weeks back after a petition drive led to council's passage of the ordiance. I was surprised and pleased to learn the city is the first in the state to pass such a measure.


Neuner: Lansing takes a big step for its streets

September 3, 2009 • From Lansing State Journal

As a member of Walk and Bike Lansing!, I applaud the LSJ for its recent coverage of the Lansing City Council's move toward making Lansing more friendly for walkers and bicyclists.

However, recent news coverage has been inaccurate, conflating the concept of "complete streets" with that of a non-motorized plan.

A non-motorized transportation plan is a planning document that identifies specific bicycle and pedestrian needs in a community, including both on-road facilities (like bike lanes), or off-road trails. Typically, such plans review needed improvements, prioritize implementation strategies, identify viable funding sources, and highlight ways to connect and integrate existing facilities.

As mentioned in your Aug. 28 article, Grand Ledge, Mason, St. Johns and Delhi, Meridian and Watertown Townships beat Lansing to the punch and have already adopted non-motorized plans.

This is different from complete streets. A complete streets policy governs the way planners and engineers design roadways, requiring that they consistently design streets to safely accommodate all users - including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, transit riders, and those with disabilities. The complete streets concept includes retrofitting existing streets to increase safety, and changing design standards so that streets are designed with all users in mind from the outset.

The ordinance that the Lansing City Council passed two weeks ago hit both concepts - Lansing is now not only required to adopt a non-motorized plan, but streets must also be designed and retrofitted to be complete. Many states and cities have adopted bike and/or pedestrian plans that designate some streets as corridors for improvements for bicycling and walking. But Lansing is one of just a few places that have gone beyond this to ensure that every street project takes all road users into account.

In fact, Lansing is the first municipality in Michigan to adopt a complete streets ordinance.

Picky details? Maybe for the average reader, but the complete streets element of the Lansing ordinance means the city took a much bigger step toward being friendly toward pedestrians and bicyclists than is being portrayed.
Read up on Complete Streets at wiki, and at the website for the National Complete Streets Coalition.

hudkina Sep 4, 2009 6:31 AM

Wow...even beating out Ann Arbor! Good job, Lansing!;)

LMich Sep 4, 2009 8:34 AM

Ha! The difference being that Ann Arbor probably automatically does this, anyway, when they have to reconstruct a street. lol Oh, and we need it way more than they do. If you've ever tried to travel around central Lansing by foot, you know how difficult it can be to navigate it on foot.

subterranean Sep 4, 2009 4:34 PM

The crazy thing is the many people who were/are opposed to the complete streets initiative. Sometimes I feel like Lansing is so backwards and it is that mentality that will ultimately drive the "good" people away from this town. We're incredibly lucky to have people like Ms. Neuner in this city.

People constantly complain that this is a waste, that the taxes are already high, and that we can't even maintain the streets we have. They note the "decaying" infrastructure that already exists, and that this combined with the taxes are what are driving people to the suburbs. Hello? Have you driven in Meridian Township lately? They have the worst roads, by far, than any other in the area. Yet they have the highest incomes in the region. Makes sense, eh? Maybe it's because they're completely auto-centric, low-density, and can't afford such a level of pavage per resident.

hudkina Sep 4, 2009 5:56 PM

Keep in mind that in a lot of measures the loudest group isn't always the largest group.;)

LMich Sep 5, 2009 3:01 AM


Originally Posted by subterranean (Post 4440743)
The crazy thing is the many people who were/are opposed to the complete streets initiative. Sometimes I feel like Lansing is so backwards and it is that mentality that will ultimately drive the "good" people away from this town. We're incredibly lucky to have people like Ms. Neuner in this city.

I simply haven't noticed that. What was amazing was that someone was able to get thousands of signatures for this, and that it basically passed the council the month that it was proposed to them, and passed by the council without making changes. The progressive community activist that spearheaded this is also most likely to soon be the councilwoman for the fourth ward.

I don't know about you, but what I'm seeing is an increasingly progressive city, which is something not to be expected of such a blue collar, industrial town losing so many people. I've become increasingly impressed by Lansing's people and its leadership, not less impressed. For a town that is neither Grand Rapids nor Ann Arbor, who get a lot of attention, these days, for their progressive citizenry, I think this town is maturing quite well and under the radar.

Every city has their NIMBYs. I actually find that Lansing's are quite a bit less influential/powerful than most.

BTW, here's a recent photo of the demolition of the ginormus North Grand Avenue Parking Expansion over Grand Avenue courtesy of the Lansing EDC:

Man, do I love to see this.

LMich Sep 7, 2009 4:25 AM

From Yesterday

New Lansing City Market & Boardwalk - on the other side of the Lansing Center promenade from where the first two shots were taken was a huge riverfront wedding going on, but no one had made a sound. Since this part of the promenade is currently closed off for the new boardwalk construction, they were as surprised as I was when I came across the promenade on my bike. lol

Michigan State Police Headquarters - the exterior has been basically done for months, now.

Accident Fund Insurance Headquarters Complex

(Grand Avenue streetscaping & parking expansion demolition)

Lansing Board of Water & Light Chiller Plant

hudkina Sep 7, 2009 4:39 AM

That boardwalk is looking really nice. How far does it stretch in either direction?

LMich Sep 7, 2009 5:00 AM

On the eastbank from the current Lansing Center promenade (from where the first two pictures were taken) to the Shiawassee Street Bridge, to the north. So two blocks, three if you include the existing promenade, itself. On the westbank two blocks to the same bridge.

All of it, though, is formally part of the Lansing River Trail system, which depending on the geography, switches between riverside asphalt pathways and boardwalks for over thirteen miles through the city.

The map is actually slightly incorrect. The northern end actually extends a little further north, and technically, where the trail hits the East Lansing city border is where it ends (the trail through MSU is of their own making), but it's fairly accurate.

subterranean Sep 7, 2009 5:51 PM

You beat me to it. Here are a few more, for good measure.

The old Troppo

And where the "new" one will go:

The Old Market

hudkina Sep 8, 2009 4:02 AM

I love those new windows.:)

LMich Sep 16, 2009 6:27 AM

The first is a story about a developer trying to build more interest in his proposals for the downtown area in a very shrewd, but interesting, way:

Rod Sanford/Associated Press

Scenic view: People take pictures on the Grand River Monday in downtown Lansing as developer Pat Gillespie leads a downtown development boat tour of the riverfront.
Taking in the sights: Developer Pat Gillespie (foreground) leads a downtown development boat tour Monday on the Grand River in downtown Lansing. Above, the Accident Fund project is visible from the Grand River

Boat tours give glimpse of city, downtown developments

Melissa Domsic • • September 15, 2009 • From Lansing State Journal

People stopped, stared and waved as a pontoon boat full of people cruised down the Grand River Monday morning.

Boat tours are a somewhat unusual sight in downtown Lansing, but developer Pat Gillespie hopes they will gain in popularity.

Gillespie took several groups of people on boat rides Monday to show off the mixture of natural beauty and urban development along the river.

He is developing the Ballpark North and Market Place mixed-use projects near the river.

On Monday morning, construction crews could be seen on either side of the river working on the new Lansing City Market as well as the Accident Fund Insurance Co.'s headquarters building.

Gillespie said he hopes to start offering public and private cruises so more people can enjoy the water. He also plans to take more than 500 people on free, one-hour tours this week.

"We purely want to expose as many people as possible this week and then have them go tell, tweet, Facebook, e-mail, tell their friends back at work and go, 'You won't believe what I saw,' " he said.
The next is about a near-downtown site that is sure to be a residential high-rise in the coming years if the city has anything to say about it.

ROD SANFORD/Lansing State Journal

The exterior of the now-boarded up Deluxe Inn near downtown Lansing. The property has been sold to the Ingham County Land Bank.

Deluxe Inn has new owner

Christine Rook • • September 15, 2009 • From

The Deluxe Inn property sold this week for $400,000.

And the new owner: the Ingham County Land Bank is already working today to get the motel sign torn down.

The downtown Lansing motel, which police said used to have high prostitution and drug activity, now stands in the way of city progress.

City officials want the two-story motel ripped down and the site rebuilt, possibly into a high rise apartment complex catering to college students. Hopes are for such a building to contain a restaurant or perhaps a pharmacy on the first floor.

The property officially changed hands Monday morning when Business Lenders LLC and the Ingham land bank closed their deal.

Land bank officials have said that already four parties have shown interest in developing the site, which backs up to the Grand River.
And, after a few years as a nightclub and then three years sitting empty, again, it looks like the former Temple Club will get a new life:

Lansing State Journal file photo

New life coming? Exterior of the now-closed Temple Club in Lansing. The building has been vacant since 2006.

Company looks to revive Temple Club site

Melissa Domsic • • September 16, 2009 • From Lansing State Journal

Plans are in the works to renovate and bring new tenants to the former Temple Club building, an Old Town landmark for more than 90 years.

Old Town Temple LLC is seeking local and state tax abatements to help fix up the building at 502 E. Grand River Ave.

"It's a wonderful old building and we're hoping to put it back to productive use," said Alan Hooper, managing member of Old Town Temple LLC. "The use of it in the future will be dictated by who ends up renting it."

The company spent $250,000 to purchase the building. It plans to invest another $655,400 to add a new roof, restore the stained glass windows, install new doors, replace windows and make other improvements.

Hooper is seeking about $228,000 in local property tax abatements over 12 years under the Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act. He also plans to request a Michigan Business Tax credit for up to $131,080.

Construction is expected to start this fall and should be complete by mid-April 2010.

The building was constructed in the early 20th century and housed churches for several decades. In 2001, it opened as the Temple Club, a bar and concert venue.

The building has been vacant since the club closed in 2006, said Brian Anderson, Center City Director for the Lansing Economic Development Corp.

"That's such an architecturally significant building," Anderson said. "For it to sit empty probably didn't reflect well on the city."

Hooper said he's had interest from a variety of possible tenants, but nothing is final. The 14,300-square-foot facility likely will be used for office space and can accommodate at least 40 to 50 workers, he said.

Hooper is president of Triterra, an environmental consulting business in Old Town.

Brittney Hoszkiw, executive director of the Old Town Commercial Association, said Hooper's dedicated to the area and volunteers in the neighborhood.

"We're excited that he is working on the project because we know that he'll be able to retain the building's integrity while giving it a new and exciting use for the community," she said.

Other business owners have taken advantage of tax incentives to breathe new life into once-vacant buildings in Old Town.

Preuss Pets moved into a former auto repair shop in 2006.

This spring, the Old Town Medical Arts Building opened in the former Cedar Street School. The $3.6 million project received more than $415,000 in state and local tax incentives and expects to receive federal tax incentives as well.

LMich Sep 23, 2009 9:30 AM

September 22

Accident Fund

New Lansing City Market & Boardwalk Construction

Proximity seen down Museum Drive

LMich Sep 24, 2009 9:47 AM

This expansion will bring their headquarters complex to 850,000 square feet. It'd have been nice to see them relocate to the city proper, but it's good to see them staying in the area. Insurance now makes up a significant chunk of the local economy, and has helped offset a little bit the huge losses in manufacturing.


Auto-Owners plans HQ expansion in Delta Twp.

Melissa Domsic • Lansing State Journal • September 22, 2009 • From

DELTA TWP. - Auto-Owners Insurance Co. plans a $105.3 million expansion of its Delta Township headquarters that would create 800 full-time jobs.

The proposed project would involve a three-story, 250,000-square-foot facility on 143 acres it bought along South Creyts Road near Interstate 496. It bought most of the property from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan earlier this year.

Once Blue Cross Blue Shield's lease ends in 2012, all or some of those buildings will be demolished to make room for the new Auto-Owners corporate complex. The 800 jobs would be created over 10 years with an average salary of $43,000.

Auto-Owners is seeking up to $26 million in incentives, including Michigan Economic Growth Authority tax credits, Michigan Business Tax credits and personal property tax abatements, said Delta Township Supervisor Ken Fletcher.

Auto-Owners Insurance Co. is part of Auto-Owners Insurance Group.

mr_nick Oct 2, 2009 5:37 PM

subterranean Oct 3, 2009 12:05 AM

City Market Getting Screwed. Hate to Say I Told You So...
Plans for City Market shrinking in size, scope

Tight budget forces original concept to be scaled back

Susan Vela

The new $1.6 million Lansing City Market continues to shrink before even opening its doors.

Still scheduled to open Dec. 1 and expected to require more expensive fees from vendors, the new market will lack a picnic pavilion and community kitchen that was envisioned for classes.

Also, there will be 6,700 square feet of rentable market space for vendors, compared with the 7,800 square feet originally proposed.

Scott Keith, interim president of the Lansing Entertainment & Public Facilities Authority, announced the changes Thursday to the Lansing City Council during a Committee of the Whole meeting.

"We had a very tight budget - $1.6 million is not a lot of money to build anything," Keith said afterward.

Some council members raised concerns, even though LEPFA officials hinted at the limitations of a $1.6 million budget when they announced bids were coming in higher than expected last spring.

LEPFA officials reduced the overall size of the new market several months ago from about 13,000 square feet to 11,400 square feet. Officials scaled back the project to fit the budget. Charlotte-based Kares Construction Co., which was awarded the contract, initially bid $2.2 million.

Some vendors already have said they will not move to the new location, just southwest of the present market at the corner of Cedar and Shiawassee streets.

They've known for awhile that fees to rent market space were going up. But that doesn't make it any easier.

According to John Hooper, who supervises the market on site, they are jumping from a dollar a square foot to $1.40 a square foot, which includes a dime-per-square foot charge for maintenance.

Hooper said he knows for sure that the Green River Cafe stand and Anna & Co. knickknack booth will not move to the new site.

"I haven't made up my mind yet," said Nan Jasinowski of Sweet Seasons Orchards in Concord. "Some of it is personal issues."

Keith still has said that approximately 30 percent of the market's 30-plus vendors may not move to the new location.

Councilwoman Sandy Allen said Thursday that a project that started out on an exciting note obviously may not be what it was expected to be.

"I understand what's happening," she said. "At the same time, I am getting some concerns."
Additional Facts
What's next

• The new Lansing City Market is expected to open by Dec. 1.

LMich Oct 7, 2009 9:45 AM

I can't believe I hadn't seen that aerial earlier, Mr. Nick. Where'd you find it? Man, you know how big the former LCA plant was, but you don't really realize it until you see it above. That's an amazing development opportunity. You could increase the size of downtown by about 50% if it was ever developed in such a way.



Report: Lansing's economic growth among best in state

Susan Vela • • October 6, 2009 • From

The Lansing area’s growth in gross domestic product ranked among the top three regions in the state in a recently-released report due to the strength of the local financial industry and more than a half-billion dollars in private investment, according to city officials.

The region matched Battle Creek and fell behind only Kalamazoo in the 2005-2008 report by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, said Bob Trezise, president and CEO of the Lansing Economic Development Corp. GDP is a term used to describe output of goods and services.

The region’s 9.2 percent growth trailed the 11.2 percent increase in Kalamazoo. That compared to 14.2 percent for Madison, Wisc., and 11.6 percent for Indianapolis, according to Trezise.

“This is empirical evidence that our strategy for growing Lansing’s economy is working,” he said. “Even in these challenging economic times, Lansing continues to shine as one of the few regions in Michigan that are winning the battle for new jobs and investments.”

And this:


Downtown On Register of Historic Places

Downtown Lansing is on the National Register of Historic Places.

More than 80 buildings spanning 15 blocks received the distinction this summer, said Brian Anderson, director of urban development and legislative affairs for the Lansing Economic Development Corp.

The district is bound by Ionia Street, Hillsdale Street, Walnut Street and Grand Avenue, he said.

Of the 93 buildings in the area, 84 are historically significant and eligible for historic preservation tax credits. The incentive covers 20 percent of rehabilitation costs.

Anderson said the designation poses no restrictions to development.

LMich Oct 15, 2009 8:14 AM

Another few hundred new jobs, downtown, but I really wish the retail would start following, and it just hasn't been.


Blue Cross will move 250 jobs downtown

Melissa Domsic • • October 15, 2009 • From Lansing State Journal

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan workers will descend on downtown Lansing in the next couple of years when the insurer moves its area operations into the current Accident Fund Insurance Co. of America headquarters.

Detroit-based Blue Cross said Wednesday it plans to move about 250 Lansing-area employees into the 130,000-square-foot building at 232 S. Capitol Ave. once Accident Fund moves its own work force into a new headquarters being built at the site of the nearby Ottawa Power Station.

Blue Cross owns worker's compensation insurer Accident Fund.

"It's adding to the vibrance of downtown," Mayor Virg Bernero said. "It's more people to eat at the restaurants. It's more people to potentially stop at a retail establishment."

Accident Fund, a for-profit company that pays property taxes, will sell its current building to Blue Cross, a nonprofit entity that does not pay property taxes.

Blue Cross officials did not indicate how much the move would cost.

This spring, Blue Cross sold about 130 acres along South Creyts Road near Interstate 496 in Delta Township to Auto-Owners Insurance Co.

About 240 Blue Cross employees work out of 50,000 square feet of office space on the site. Blue Cross will lease the building from Auto-Owners before moving downtown in spring 2011.

Another 10 employees will relocate from the company's office on Ionia Street. Blue Cross plans to sell that office.

Financial services and insurance is a key sector in the Lansing area, so it's important the Blue Cross jobs didn't move outside the region, said Tim Daman, president and CEO of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce. The insurance sector employs about 8,000 in the Lansing area, according to chamber data.

"Even though we may see jobs moving from Delta Township to the city of Lansing, this is still a positive economic story for the greater Lansing region," Daman said.

Accident Fund is redeveloping the Ottawa Power Station downtown into a 333,000-square-foot headquarters. The $182 million project is still on track to be completed in early 2011.

The insurer plans to house about 1,100 employees at the new site, including roughly 650 it now has working downtown and 500 workers expected to be hired over the next 10 to 15 years.

Since Blue Cross has a smaller Lansing work force than Accident Fund, there likely will be two empty floors once Blue Cross moves into the Accident Fund building, said Daniel Loepp, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. "In the perfect world I'd rather fill it with Blue Cross personnel. Whether we can or not is another question," he said.

Loepp said the company will consider whether to consolidate more employees from around the state at the downtown site.

Blue Cross employees will be able to park at nearby parking ramps Accident Fund workers currently use.

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