The Re-renaissance of Lansing

Thirty years ago, Lansing was a very different place. Or was it? Sure, the buildings may have had different tenants and the city’s future plans may have included different names then they do now, but a common thread that has pulled the community together for over 30 years is the spirit to build, create and make Lansing a thriving community. There have been bumps in the road and plans that have changed or have stalled, but creating a community that provides for businesses, residents and visitors alike has always been at the forefront of Lansing’s mission.

In June 1987, the very first issue of Greater Lansing Business Monthly found its way into the community and emblazoned across the cover was the headline “The Renaissance of Lansing.” The five-page story details the “rebirth” of Lansing’s central business district and the exciting amenities that would soon be available to the community. Experts in the community shared their vision for the future and why downtown was ready for a change. Today, as momentum rebuilds in the region, we are seeing their vision come to life, perhaps altered slightly, but just as vibrant and energetic as they were envisioned years ago.

“It’s amazing how the vision they had back then and the goals they had are so similar to what we are trying to do now. Back then, there wasn’t enough momentum to get it done and there were challenges to reactivating downtown, but now we have the right mix, the right atmosphere and the right people to get it done,” said Nick Eyde, principal of the Eyde Company. “You see young people driving the need; people who have energy and passion and want to see downtown come back to life. They want to stay here and grow here and make it their own.”

Scott Keith, president and CEO of the Lansing Entertainment & Public Facilities Authority echoes this sentiment in his vision of how Lansing has found new life and has started to create a culture and style all of its own.

“Everything has a cycle. Things cycle through and become popular and then things go away. Things evolve – they have to – and, in a way, Lansing has evolved too. We look at what we can do differently and I think that makes us stand apart,” Keith said. “We look at entertainment, what we have to work with and what people want; and we adapt. We want to give the same entertainment value, while still keeping pace with the evolution of things. That is what keeps us on our toes. We want to try something new, not just do the same things year after year. Sometimes those changes are scary or risky, but we adapt, we evolve and that is how we develop.”

Development is at the core of Lansing’s re-renaissance, just as it was 30 years ago. Pristine office spaces were established; the Radisson Hotel came into the fold and the Lansing Center found its home in the heart of the city. And, as the city has changed, these spaces have been re-imagined as well. Creative residential spaces are popping up around downtown; state-of-the-art incubators are thriving and entertainment options continue to grow.

A downtown business core that once centered around office buildings and the start of a budding tourism industry has now expanded to include eclectic pocket neighborhoods like Old Town and REO Town; which bring arts, culture and business together to create an expansive vision of what makes Lansing great.

“Lansing is becoming a place that everyone want to come and be a part of. People all wants the same thing — to have a place to be part of, to bring the family down to and enjoy the entertainment or just to walk along the beautiful waterfront. Downtown, REO Town and Old Town have each developed their own personalities and they aren’t competitors; each area supports the growth of the community,” Eyde said. “There is a concerted effort to move Lansing forward, to regenerate and really look at what the city has to offer.”

Lansing has a lot of things going for it. Not only is it centrally located in the lower peninsula of the state, it also carries a badge of honor as the state capital and as a growing hub for large corporations and industry leaders. But that investment didn’t happen by accident, city leaders and business trailblazers worked diligently to turn around the previous stigma associated with the area and made sure that organizations knew Lansing was open for business.

“When I came into office, Lansing needed to be recharged; so I started by assembling the best team of people I could get and we got started,” Mayor of Lansing Virg Bernero said. “We gathered the best and brightest and really looked at Lansing’s future and growth. We started working as a region. Instead of it being us against them, fighting for crumbs, we looked at it as a win for the region is a win for Lansing, because success begets success. And, how people are treated when they get here matters. We wanted to roll out the red carpet, not the red tape, to let everyone know that Lansing is open for business.”

More and more businesses have started calling Lansing home. Within the last five years alone, areas that were once lined with vacant storefronts have sprung back to life. Small business owners have taken a leap of faith to follow their dreams and Lansing has answered the call by providing support, resources and raw talent to help them thrive.

“You’ll find everything you need here in Lansing for business,” said Mayor Bernero. “You’ll find startups, investors and passion. It’s in our DNA. We are makers and you can make it here in Lansing.”

It seems as though Lansing’s resurgence is just getting started and there could be plenty more growth, development and gumption where that came from.

“We are on the upward swing,” said Keith. “You can see the needle moving and there are going to be more announcements being made. This is just the beginning of what can happen in Lansing.”

The vision the community and its leadership had for the city of Lansing 30 years ago is alive and well today. The excitement and passion to create the best Lansing possible can be felt throughout the region. A growing number of investments are being made in the central business district because of the renewed sense of pride within the region and a spirit of cooperation that’s developed amongst the public and private sectors. Lansing has made considerable progress, and is well on its way to experiencing its re-renaissance.

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