Reclaiming the Riverfront for Recreation
Private-Public Partnership Bringing Rotary Park to Life on Water’s Edge
Lansing residents and visitors will soon have an enhanced opportunity to enjoy one of the city’s natural recreational amenities, as construction for the incoming Rotary Park begins on the banks of the Grand River in
the city’s Downtown and Stadium districts.
Mayor Andy Schor signed an executive order at a Jan. 22 ceremony setting the public-private partnership in motion to begin construction on the park along the Lansing River Trail south of the Shiawassee Street bridge to the Lansing Center. The roughly $2 million project includes monetary and in-kind donations from more than a dozen private organizations and individuals as well as matching funding from the Capital Region Community Foundation. Work on the park is expected to wrap up this fall.
“Revitalization and activation of the Lansing riverfront is a priority of my administration,” said Schor. “The various projects planned for the riverfront will be transformative for residents and visitors alike. We appreciate all of our partners that are providing funding and ideas toward this effort and will continue to seek inspiration from other communities, as well.”
In addition to the funds contributed by four anonymous individual donors, the Rotary Club of Lansing Foundation dedicated $400,000 to the park project for naming rights. Other local businesses that stepped to the plate on the project include Delta Dental of Michigan, which provided $250,000 for the plaza; Dewpoint, which donated $100,000 for the beach; Auto-Owners Insurance, which is sponsoring an outdoor fireplace and lighted forest for $75,000; Red Cedar Investment Management, which gave $40,000 for a sculpture patio adjacent to the beach; and Gillespie Group and the Team Lansing Foundation of the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau, which are each donating $30,000 to co-sponsor the Happening Under the Bridge (HUB) performance venue. Wieland Construction and the Lansing Board of Water and Light are providing in-kind donations for construction management and electrical work.
“They all raised their hands and stood up and said, ‘This is exactly what we want. This is what we need,’” Schor said of the local sponsors.
The city will provide existing brownfield development reimbursement funds for part of the project to assist in generating more private investment along the riverfront. The Capital Region Community Foundation will be managing the progression of the work as well as establishing an endowment fund for the future maintenance of the area, according to Laurie Baumer, the foundation’s executive vice president.
“In 2016, the community foundation took a leadership role in developing the downtown riverfront,” she said. “Rotary Park is the first of many projects we are planning in partnership with the city of Lansing, helping to create a vibrant community that will attract and retain the talent our businesses desperately need.”
Kevin Schumacher, board member of the Rotary Club of Lansing Foundation, noted that the grant from the organization to aid in the creation of the community space is emblematic of the Rotary’s motto of service before self.
“The members of Lansing Rotary are proud to partner with the community foundation on this impact grant for the betterment of the great city of Lansing,” he said. “We look forward to the many fun activities here and to a more active riverfront.”
Dewpoint President and CEO Ken Theis called the project “awesome,” adding that his company’s financial dedication to the beach portion of the work reflects Dewpoint’s commitment to be an active and engaged partner in the city’s continued community-centric attitude and endeavors.
“We’re a company that went from 30 employees in 2010 to 425 employees today,” Theis said. “We’re committed to Lansing and we’re excited to be a part of this. This is something that really offers our employees and the area students and the young people a way to stay engaged in the community. We’re excited to be a part of what’s taking place downtown.”
The projects slated for Rotary Park were gleaned from a community feedback initiative as well as drawn from other successful placemaking efforts in growing Michigan communities such as Port Huron, Muskegon and Detroit.