The Revitalization of Downtown Lansing
It can be a Catch-22. People want nice places to live close to work, restaurants and entertainment. But first, housing needs to be available and businesses setting up shop need to make sure they have a customer base living nearby.
Greenspaces outside the city are attractive to developers because there aren’t cleanup costs of revitalization often associated with city spaces. However, from an urban planning perspective, this can lead to a sprawling city that’s harder to provide services for.
Using tax incentives, the city of Lansing is working with developers to revitalize neglected spaces in the heart of the city that need asbestos removal and other environmental cleanup services.
The Brownfield Plan
The Lansing Brownfield Redevelopment Authority released “Brownfield Plan No. 77,” a report outlining plans and costs of redevelopment for the 500 Block Redevelopment Project. The project calls for a “mixed-use multiphase multi-building redevelopment,” including offices, retail space and apartments.
This includes 501 S. Capitol Ave. – building No. 1 – and 520 S. Washington Ave. – building No. 2 – in Lansing.
Building No. 1 was constructed in 1970 as a six-story single-occupant central bank. The building is now vacant except for Lake Trust Credit Union on the first floor. Building No. 1 will include renovations to transform the property into a mixed-use structure. It will contain an estimated 23,461 square feet of office/commercial space and 44 multifamily residential apartments across four residential floors. Completion is expected by 2021.
Building No. 2 will be a newly constructed mixed-use building built on the current parking lot of the 500 block. The building will contain an estimated 116 multifamily residential apartments and 3,500 square feet of commercial space. Completion is expected by 2022.
A vision of growth for the city
Lansing Mayor Andy Schor said the plan is to draw people to the city and retain young people living in the area, and even bring people back to the area.
“We’d rather not have a blighted parking lot with an aging building that is mostly empty,” Schor said. “The goals are to repurpose and activate that space so that there is something exciting and active going on in the southern downtown.
“We have a vision of growth throughout the city. We want to create excitement and activation throughout the city,” Schor continued. “We’ve been pushing for lots of vibrancy. And when you have development and more people living in our city and in our southern downtown area and more options for commercial for activities, then more people want to live there and more people want to visit.
“I expect it to have a pretty significant economic impact,” said Schor. And a “tremendous impact in that area.”
Increasing economic activity
The Lansing Economic Area Partnership is working on the project with the aim of increasing economic activity and bringing in new tax revenue from an increased property value and from new residents paying taxes.
LEAP Economic Development Specialist Kris Klein said adding apartment units downtown “will help bring more residents and, with that, potentially more of a demand” for restaurants, services and office spaces.
Klein said apartment units added downtown feed into a positive cycle.
“It makes Lansing a more attractive place to help spur additional businesses that provide services for folks who live downtown,” Klein explained. “As far as downtown, it’s a huge benefit, but even citywide it’s making Lansing a more attractive place to live.”
According to Klein, more people living downtown means more businesses and support for the businesses that are there. Klein said this outcome is the “short-term, direct benefit.” However, there are also long-term benefits for the city.
“A lot of people choose where they live before they choose where they work,” Klein said. “So, people are picking … a place to find opportunities rather than moving to a certain location for a specific job.”
There also are significant tax benefits. More people living downtown means a larger tax base of both individuals and businesses.