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News & Press: FOCUS

Igniting Transformation in the Region

Friday, February 1, 2019  
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As a life-long Lansing resident, I have experienced the highs and lows of the city’s downtown. As a young person, I remember shopping downtown when it was a desired destination for families as well as working professionals. I also witnessed the decline of the district as businesses closed and the sidewalks folded up on Friday at 5 p.m.

About a quarter of a century ago, a transformation began downtown that changed the face of the community and brightened the outlook for our future as a region.

The catalyst was the bold decision by thenLansing Mayor David Hollister to back construction of a baseball stadium on a rundown piece of urban property along Michigan Avenue between Cedar and Larch. That decision led to the introduction of minor league baseball and the Lansing Lugnuts to our region. Add to the mix Lansing Ignite, our region’s newest professional sports venture. Ignite will begin play in just two months in the first season of the USL League One soccer league. The combination of Ignite and the Lugnuts both using Cooley Law School Stadium as their playing venue means more people coming downtown, virtually every single weekend from April until October.

Today, downtown Lansing is again a destination spot for working professionals, families, college students and retirees. Tour buses fill downtown during the school year as students flock to the State Capitol. Our growing arts community includes the La Fille Gallery and Lansing Art Gallery. Popular restaurants and breweries such as Lansing Brewing Company, Green Dot Stables Lansing, MP Social (bringing social and dining options to residents and downtown community), classics like Soup Spoon Cafe and Golden Harvest, and hip spots in REO Town and Old Town have helped transform the culture of downtown.

The construction of the Stadium District project, by developer Pat Gillespie, demonstrated a strong market for new office, retail and residential housing downtown. Since that project took shape in 2007, similar ventures have developed along the Michigan Avenue corridor from the State Capitol to Michigan State University’s campus. The latest announcement by Gillespie Group is an exciting development of an urban market and hotel on the 600 block of East Michigan Avenue. 

Several organizations in recent years have joined forces to maximize the potential of the downtown Lansing district. The Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, LEAP, Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Greater Lansing Arts Council are working together to better position downtown Lansing as a destination for business investment, economic development, placemaking and an attractive destination.

In surveys of our Chamber membership in recent years, business owners have told us repeatedly that their number one concern in coming years is the ability to attract and retain talent. In order to do that we must continue to build a region where great talent wants to live, work and play. Adding professional soccer to the mix in downtown Lansing is another important element of building a quality of life that makes Lansing a desirable community, not only for top young talent, but for people of all ages.

A new baseball stadium and the Lansing Lugnuts started a revival that not only sparked growth in the downtown, but became a quality of life asset that impacts our entire region. The birth of Lansing Ignite is another step in our journey towards becoming a world-class community. I encourage Chamber members to join the fun and witness the transformation of Greater Lansing!

Click here to download the February edition of FOCUS.

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