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Old 07-23-2012, 09:34 AM
 
Location: Somewhere extremely awesome
1,591 posts, read 910,294 times
Reputation: 1181
Default How can we make Lansing better?

The Lansing area, being a focal point for higher education and state government, has a lot of the same characteristics that all of the cool, trendy cities have. There are quite a few young, hip people, a focus on technology, independent stores, major festivals, cultural and sporting activities, and an open, tolerant population. Unemployment isn't really that bad, either, and outside of the city of Lansing, the schools are generally quite good.

Still, Lansing lags behind its peers. Nobody would dare compare it to Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, or Kalamazoo. Compared to other similar cities with major universities and government centers, Lansing is considered a laughable afterthought.

But - what do you think can be done? Do you think the Lansing area can realize its potential, or is it held back by other problems? What can be done to make it more of a destination?
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Old 07-23-2012, 10:59 AM
 
Location: Lansing Metro
2,701 posts, read 2,794,721 times
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I like this thread. I live in the Lansing area, but I'm originally from the Grand Rapids area. While GR does have a lot more going for it overall, I have grown to appreciate Lansing, and especially the surrounding areas and smaller towns (where I live). Lansing is considerably smaller, and I've found that it is much easier to get around town than in GR, and there is a lot less sprawl, IMO. But maybe this is Lansing's downfall? Considering how many people work in downtown Lansing, there are VERY few people who live downtown and work downtown. Everyone commutes to the suburbs or the rural areas, which, in Lansing, is way too easy.

20 years ago, I think GR was similar, in that downtown was dead after 5:00 pm, and there wasn't much to do there, and no one really chose to live and work downtown. GR managed to turn that around big time. But for Lansing, I don't think it is as simple as just following the blueprint of GR. For one, GR had better bones to work with. The historical downtown is much more intact and attractive to begin with, and the setting is nicer. There has also been a TON of private money poured into downtown GR. GR has very strong private sector employers with leaders who wanted to see GR get better. Lansing is much more dependent on public employers, so it's a different animal. Lansing doesn't have nearly as many wealthy private investors who can put money into downtown. The nice thing for Lansing is that it has very steady employment. The bad thing is that there is no wealthy entrepreneurs attached to those jobs, and those are the kind of people that lead the rebound of a downtown. The stable government employment in Lansing, which is a good thing in many ways, also holds the city back a little bit. The private employers in GR provide a certain level of energy. GM is here, but it is not headquartered here. There's not much incentive for GM to invest in downtown Lansing.

So... what can Lansing do? I think it needs a good arena/concert venue downtown, for one thing, that can draw national acts. GR really started to hit its stride after the Van Andel Arena was built. That was the point where people really started to enjoy being downtown. Then the restaurants and bars followed. People need to enjoy downtown enough that they actually want to live there full time, and it needs to be the "cool" place for 20-30 year olds to go. The minor league ball park in Lansing was a great start (actually a lot better than what GR has out in the suburbs), but a concert venue would be the next step. I think the proposed casino is actually a bad idea, because it is not going to attract the right crowd to create a vibrant downtown. Casinos will mostly bring in the old guard who have no interest in moving downtown or remaking downtown Lansing. They will come, park in the ramp, smoke cigarettes, waste their money, and leave. The 20-30 year olds are where its at.

I think one of the biggest things holding Lansing back is that the older generation very much has a 70's mindset. Most have no interest in a having a vibrant downtown, or going downtown at all. They are very content to be in the suburbs and drive to Applebees on Saginaw for dinner or whatever. I don't know if it's the blue collar union mentality, or too many government workers who have been in the same routine for 30 years, but I never hear anyone even TALK about downtown, much less go there, even though there are some good things happening down there. I'm not sure why GR is different, but it is. And it's not like GR is a super progressive place, but the people there seem much more interested in going downtown, improving downtown, and making it the best city it can be. In that sense, GR is much more progressive than Lansing. I guess it's regional pride? In some ways, GR has too much regional pride, and it can get annoying. But it sure helps when you're trying to improve a place.

While it seems like MSU should be a big help to downtown Lansing, it really is a separate world. I don't think MSU is the solution. Even though it is right down the street, most MSU undergrads live in a bubble and probably couldn't even find downtown if they wanted to. This is not a criticism of MSU; most colleges are like this.

If Lansing is going to become a destination, it really has to start with the 20-30 year old locals. But they need more of a reason to go there first.

Oh, and I tried to be a pioneer once. I brought a bunch of friends to Washington Square on a Saturday night for dinner. We had a hard time finding a place that was open. It was just... dead. I've never had anyone mention that they would want to try it again.
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Old 07-24-2012, 10:37 AM
 
Location: Somewhere extremely awesome
1,591 posts, read 910,294 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by michigan83 View Post
I like this thread. I live in the Lansing area, but I'm originally from the Grand Rapids area. While GR does have a lot more going for it overall, I have grown to appreciate Lansing, and especially the surrounding areas and smaller towns (where I live). Lansing is considerably smaller, and I've found that it is much easier to get around town than in GR, and there is a lot less sprawl, IMO. But maybe this is Lansing's downfall? Considering how many people work in downtown Lansing, there are VERY few people who live downtown and work downtown. Everyone commutes to the suburbs or the rural areas, which, in Lansing, is way too easy.

20 years ago, I think GR was similar, in that downtown was dead after 5:00 pm, and there wasn't much to do there, and no one really chose to live and work downtown. GR managed to turn that around big time. But for Lansing, I don't think it is as simple as just following the blueprint of GR. For one, GR had better bones to work with. The historical downtown is much more intact and attractive to begin with, and the setting is nicer. There has also been a TON of private money poured into downtown GR. GR has very strong private sector employers with leaders who wanted to see GR get better. Lansing is much more dependent on public employers, so it's a different animal. Lansing doesn't have nearly as many wealthy private investors who can put money into downtown. The nice thing for Lansing is that it has very steady employment. The bad thing is that there is no wealthy entrepreneurs attached to those jobs, and those are the kind of people that lead the rebound of a downtown. The stable government employment in Lansing, which is a good thing in many ways, also holds the city back a little bit. The private employers in GR provide a certain level of energy. GM is here, but it is not headquartered here. There's not much incentive for GM to invest in downtown Lansing.

So... what can Lansing do? I think it needs a good arena/concert venue downtown, for one thing, that can draw national acts. GR really started to hit its stride after the Van Andel Arena was built. That was the point where people really started to enjoy being downtown. Then the restaurants and bars followed. People need to enjoy downtown enough that they actually want to live there full time, and it needs to be the "cool" place for 20-30 year olds to go. The minor league ball park in Lansing was a great start (actually a lot better than what GR has out in the suburbs), but a concert venue would be the next step. I think the proposed casino is actually a bad idea, because it is not going to attract the right crowd to create a vibrant downtown. Casinos will mostly bring in the old guard who have no interest in moving downtown or remaking downtown Lansing. They will come, park in the ramp, smoke cigarettes, waste their money, and leave. The 20-30 year olds are where its at.

I think one of the biggest things holding Lansing back is that the older generation very much has a 70's mindset. Most have no interest in a having a vibrant downtown, or going downtown at all. They are very content to be in the suburbs and drive to Applebees on Saginaw for dinner or whatever. I don't know if it's the blue collar union mentality, or too many government workers who have been in the same routine for 30 years, but I never hear anyone even TALK about downtown, much less go there, even though there are some good things happening down there. I'm not sure why GR is different, but it is. And it's not like GR is a super progressive place, but the people there seem much more interested in going downtown, improving downtown, and making it the best city it can be. In that sense, GR is much more progressive than Lansing. I guess it's regional pride? In some ways, GR has too much regional pride, and it can get annoying. But it sure helps when you're trying to improve a place.

While it seems like MSU should be a big help to downtown Lansing, it really is a separate world. I don't think MSU is the solution. Even though it is right down the street, most MSU undergrads live in a bubble and probably couldn't even find downtown if they wanted to. This is not a criticism of MSU; most colleges are like this.

If Lansing is going to become a destination, it really has to start with the 20-30 year old locals. But they need more of a reason to go there first.

Oh, and I tried to be a pioneer once. I brought a bunch of friends to Washington Square on a Saturday night for dinner. We had a hard time finding a place that was open. It was just... dead. I've never had anyone mention that they would want to try it again.
Good points, michigan83. I do agree that there seems to be a lack of energy (for lack of a better term) in downtown Lansing after working hours. That being said, I'm not sure whether this can be blamed on the 20-30 year old local crowd. From what I've heard, all of the lofts near downtown have a lengthy waiting list and are in high demand. I'm also not sure whether it's a good idea to exclusively focus on downtown Lansing, particularly I think the Lansing region is relatively cohesive, and because of the presence of MSU. East Lansing seems to have many of the same "problems" that Lansing does with attracting young professionals. Students go to school there, stay in their bubble, and then leave. Most of the ones that do stay after graduation seem to either from the area already, or in a relationship with someone from the area or still in school. So I wonder if it's not so much that the 20-30 year old locals aren't going out in the city as opposed to that there aren't very many 20-30 year old locals to begin with. A nice concert venue in downtown Lansing would be sweet though.

By any chance, have you heard of Grand River Connection? It's supposed to be an organization for young professionals in the Lansing area. I'm on their mailing lists but I haven't gone to anything yet; maybe someday.
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Old 07-24-2012, 10:55 PM
 
Location: City of McKeesport
3,893 posts, read 3,759,092 times
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Lansing's best bet would be to improve the downtown area, make it more urban, walkable, and vibrant. However, Lansing does not have the bones of a Grand Rapids or even a Jackson to work with. Most of Lansing's historic buildings were torn down, and what's left is a lot of parking lots and suburban office park style architecture. Jackson has a lot more potential, in my opinion, in terms of creating a vibrant downtown environment.
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Old 07-25-2012, 05:04 AM
 
Location: Lansing Metro
2,701 posts, read 2,794,721 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cbmsu01 View Post
Good points, michigan83. I do agree that there seems to be a lack of energy (for lack of a better term) in downtown Lansing after working hours. That being said, I'm not sure whether this can be blamed on the 20-30 year old local crowd. From what I've heard, all of the lofts near downtown have a lengthy waiting list and are in high demand. I'm also not sure whether it's a good idea to exclusively focus on downtown Lansing, particularly I think the Lansing region is relatively cohesive, and because of the presence of MSU. East Lansing seems to have many of the same "problems" that Lansing does with attracting young professionals. Students go to school there, stay in their bubble, and then leave. Most of the ones that do stay after graduation seem to either from the area already, or in a relationship with someone from the area or still in school. So I wonder if it's not so much that the 20-30 year old locals aren't going out in the city as opposed to that there aren't very many 20-30 year old locals to begin with. A nice concert venue in downtown Lansing would be sweet though.

By any chance, have you heard of Grand River Connection? It's supposed to be an organization for young professionals in the Lansing area. I'm on their mailing lists but I haven't gone to anything yet; maybe someday.
Yes... I have checked out their website, but haven't gone any further than that. It seems like a good way to get to know people. I have never been great at "getting involved" in groups like that, even though I would probably like it if I did. I'm not sure if I would ever do it, but I have toyed with the idea.

Also, I think you make a good point about there not being a ton of 20-30 year olds in Lansing. In fact, I remember reading somewhere that "young professionals" make up a pretty small percentage of the people in the Lansing area. Maybe that goes back to the nature of employment in Lansing. The auto industry hasn't been a big employer for young people in many years. When things pick up for the auto industry, they are mostly just calling laid-off people back into work. MSU and the state government do not employ many young people, either. People get those jobs and then hang on to them until retirement. State government has been shedding jobs in recent years, which does not equate to hiring many young workers. It can be a lonely existence being one of the few people under 40 years old and working in this area. I am literally the only person in my age group at work. It does seem like most college grads have to leave the area to find an entry level job somewhere. Grand Rapids, on the other hand, seems to have a more diverse economy that is more likely to hire young college grads. Maybe Lansing can't do much more without a big influx of jobs that employ young professionals.
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Old 07-26-2012, 01:42 PM
 
Location: Portland, ME
809 posts, read 388,249 times
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Lansing has a good downtown area. There are a lot of great bars (way better than East Lansing's - no cover and cheaper beers too), the Lugnuts are a fun event, there are concerts in both the Loft and at the park where they have Common Ground, etc. Also Old Town is pretty fun to walk around too.

The problem is that it's still not a very "nice" area because of the type of people who live here. For whatever reason, there are a ton of homeless people who hang out by the CATA station, the park across the street from the CADL (Library), and all along the riverwalk (basically all over downtown). There are also a bunch of (for-lack-of-a-better-term) hoodlums who seems to come out of the woodwork for major festivals and events - like the idiots at the 4th of July who were throwing firecrackers into large groups of people at the riverfront park and whatnot. I haven't been to Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo a ton, but it doesn't seem like they have that problem.

So how can we get rid of this type of population? Is there a way we can ship them all up to Flint? lol I think more people would feel comfortable coming and hanging out downtown if these kind of people weren't out in such force.
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Old 07-26-2012, 04:50 PM
 
1 posts, read 618 times
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build it, they will come. the problem with that statement is that it requires leadership, vision, and character(keeping your hands out of the till).
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Old 07-27-2012, 07:22 PM
 
Location: City of McKeesport
3,893 posts, read 3,759,092 times
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I visited Lansing recently on a weekday during business hours. There were maybe two or three other people walking around in the whole downtown area. I visited downtown Flint on the same day, and there were actually more people out and walking around there. Unbelievable.
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Old 07-30-2012, 08:50 AM
Status: "Game recognized game from the start" (set 22 days ago)
 
30,324 posts, read 35,043,311 times
Reputation: 6039
I think the Downtown needs to use any buildings that aren't in use or to full capacity for mixed use and make the Red Cedar River and asset. I haven't been in the area since the late 90's but even then, I thought that the downtown was underutilized, eventhough it sounds like there is more there now. Does Lansing have a Riverwalk or trail? I think that would be really nice. Perhaps connecting Lansing and East Lansing by boat could work as well in terms of recreation or as a River cruise.
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Old 07-30-2012, 12:36 PM
 
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Default Sorry AA

Quote:
Originally Posted by alleghenyangel View Post
I visited Lansing recently on a weekday during business hours. There were maybe two or three other people walking around in the whole downtown area. I visited downtown Flint on the same day, and there were actually more people out and walking around there. Unbelievable.
I work on downtown Lansing and unless you visited when it was 105 outside in the middle of the day, there are always lots of people out and about: state employees, legislators, Davenport, Cooley Law and LCC students, other people working and playing there. On many days there are actually more street musicians out then what you described. Looking outside my window now I can could at least a dozen people just on our block outside the main core.

It also could have been that you hit us on one of those mid-afternoon hours when-yikes!--people are actually inside working and taking classes. And just for clarification: we also consider "downtown" to be along Washington Ave or any of the cross streets from about Ottawa down to Kalamazoo. If you happened to be over by the Capitol when the legislature was not in session, that part of the city can be quiet when they're gone.

As someone who has been down here for nearly 20 years, there is considerably more activity in downtown Lansing during the day AND in the evening hours than there has been in decades, especially in the summer with Lugnuts ball games, various bars and restaurants open late and many other events.

I'm not going to say that we have the kind of vitality that rivals say, Grand Rapids or Detroit, but certainly things seem to be headed in the right direction. I would suggest stopping by on another day and giving us a second chance before you compare Lansing negatively to Flint.
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