Nov. 16 2017 11:26 AM

Red Cedar Renaissance project worth wait

By a public vote, in two separate elections (the large majority voting for this project), the Montgomery Drain improvements and the Red Cedar development project have been demanded by the public. At neighborhood meetings, service club luncheons and meetings of concerned citizens, I have found that the public’s excitement and support for this project have been overwhelming. When will construction start? Despite the hurdles that have been thrown in front of these projects, they both will be under construction in the next year. This is a “game changer” in Lansing. They will employ hundreds of people, protect the health of the Red Cedar River, provide an environment of excitement and possibilities for the residents of this region, and provide a living classroom. These projects, legally separate, but working together, mark an exciting time for Lansing’s future.

Rebuilding our older infrastructure in the Greater Lansing area has to happen. If Lansing is going to continue to become a destination for people to find a high quality of life in a clean environment with plenty of job opportunities, these projects must take place.

Each year the Montgomery Drain Drainage District contributes between 50,000 and 75,000 pounds of pollution to the Red Cedar River. This storm water urban retrofit project for the Montgomery Drain will eliminate 96 percent of that pollution. To make this happen, my design team and I have put together a series of constructed natural features within the drainage system that will provide pollution extraction and an aesthetic environment for the citizens to enjoy. Two-and-a-half miles of service access paths built for maintenance will also serve as hiking biking paths.

The nonprofit Art in the Wild, and its well over 150 volunteers and corporate sponsors, are working hard to raise money through fundraising efforts and grants to place art and maintain that art in perpetuity within the Montgomery Drain’s Drainage District for the purpose of changing public behavior and attitudes about clean water.

This project will educate the public about non-point source pollution and its impact on the public health. No tax dollars will be spent by Art in the Wild. Its efforts plan to raise $10 million of private funds over the next seven years, to place museum quality art in and around reclaimed environmental areas created by the drain project.

Art in the Wild’s mission: To enhance environmental restoration projects in Mid-Michigan through the placement of art, and by using human imagination for the purpose of providing opportunities for environmental education. These works of art will be permanent, maintained in perpetuity, and will provide opportunities to continuously inspire a public passion to protect our water resources.

This project will become a destination, not only for our citizens to enjoy, but also an attraction that will bring visitors — a true “place making” experience for the city and its region. There will be sculptures, murals on some of the commercial buildings, two amphitheaters for live performances, de kiosks displaying poetry from people of all ages. Art in the Wild is also partnering with Marshall Music to facilitate live music near the art.

The Red Cedar Development, the Montgomery Drain improvement, and Art in the Wild will increase the number of people who live, work and play on Lansing’s east side. This infrastructure retrofit, along with the development, is going to enhance the Michigan Avenue corridor from East Lansing/MSU to the State Capitol.

The development will house over 2,000 people. The old Red Cedar Golf Course was a drain on the city’s budget. The land produced no tax revenue. This land is a unique opportunity for creative development to happen.

Because this land is in the floodplain, it has to be built up with a platform before it is buildable. This will require the investment of $77 million. None of these funds will be out of the pockets of taxpayers. The city collects no taxes from this property today. These costs will be paid by the developer and future tax revenues generated by this development. The income tax revenue from the temporary construction workers and the permanent employees in the development gives the city new revenue. These new Lansing tax revenues will be an ongoing source of funds. This project becomes a win-win for the citizens and the environment.

(Pat Lindemann is the drain commissioner of Ingham County.)