Cities are not inherently difficult to understand, given scope and depth. In Lansing, I keep finding myself saying aloud, “Darn, I wish there were some houses or apartments near the ______.” And then I proceed to pretend I have billions of dollars and imagine what the city would be like with housing magically placed where I desire.
The main economic driver in Lansing is Downtown, including the State of Michigan and some hospital systems, and then there are a plethora of higher education institutions such as Lansing Community College, Cooley Law School, nearby Michigan State University, and several satellite campuses for other state universities. The main shopping areas of Lansing include the “Eastwoode Towne Center,” “Frandor,”and then the city itself is flanked by malls, one in West Lansing and another in Okemos.
Notice, Downtown Lansing is not on that shopping list. It says a lot about where the metropolitan Lansing residents are spending their money. It says that Downtown is just for some government offices and their supporting/ed businesses. However, there is hope in what currently doesn’t exist.
On the shopper’s list, however, are not housing options. Eastwoode, Frandor, and the malls are not places to live. However, they are definitely good places to spend money, providing leisure stores, clothing retailers, big box retailers such as WalMart, Miejer, Best Buy, etc., and services such as banks, tailors, etc. Considering that there is already an offering of shopping outside of Downtown, how can Downtown Lansing improve its shopping options without harming the existing businesses surrounding the city?
My answer to this brings me back to the first point: housing. Downtown Lansing needs dense housing to support new businesses that would not detract from the existing businesses. Inherently, you aren’t trading one problem for another.
Recently, there have been new construction projects Downtown, including a large number of jobs that would not exist otherwise. Furthermore, there is talk of renovating some older businesses downtown for mixed use development-including retail, commercial/office, and-you guessed it-housing. Sounds good to me.
Just east of Downtown Lansing there is an older industrial district. Lansing itself is a pretty blue collar town, depending on nearby General Motors automobile plants to employ lots of residents. However, this district is not home to those staples of employment. This district is home to a small number of houses and a few small businesses. This district is ripe for development.
So there you go, Lansing, you know where and you know how.