Dec. 25 2009 12:00 AM
Address: 3405 – 3415 S. Cedar St., Lansing

Owner: Jody Romer
Taxpayer: Jody Romer
Owner says: It was a project to improve the faade
Architecture expert Amanda Harrell-Seyburn says: A happy accident can sometimes reveal an architectural discovery. Basic maintenance to the facade of the 3400 block of Cedar Street exposed the original brick facade beneath layers of wood and stucco. Restoration of the brick facade combined with the already well-appointed urban buildings make this commercial block a shining example of what is possible for commercial development — both historic and new — along the Cedar Street corridor. To read more of Harrell-Seyburns advice please see this story at www.LansingCityPulse. com.

This week’s Eye candy shows that some buildings can be transformed from an eyesore to a source relatively easily.

Owner Jody Romer wanted to fix the ugly and rotting wood paneling that once served as the faade for his commercial building at the corner of Cedar Street and Holmes Road. When he got to work, however, he discovered the original brick faade dormant underneath. The ugly wood was stripped off, revealing more windows and a more contemporary looking (in a back to the future way) building.

“I was pleased the way it turned out,” Romer said. “Going back to that brick exterior is the thing to do for the current times.”

Harrell-Seyburn's lesson on commercial facade restoration:

Michigan communities are participating in facade incentive programs for
turn-of-the-century buildings and tasteful restoration of non-historic
buildings. Historic and non-historic facade restoration is  en
vogue  and participating in an incentive program is
advantageous to commercial business and community pride. People are
drawn by great architecture and facade restoration is one way to entice
more patrons, both visitors and locals, to commercial areas.

embarking on a restoration project, a little ground work must be done
to successfully restore a commercial facade. One of the of
the most common errors in a restoration project is not doing the
necessary research prior to the restoration. This error often results
in less stellar restorations. Restoration can be a rewarding and
arduous task. To ensure a successful restoration project with minimum
setbacks, an architectural Investigation must be done and the expertise
of an architect consulted.

Do An Architectural Investigation:

The most important step is to research your commercial structure. This
will ensure that facade restoration process will be as accurate as
possible and will enhance the commercial businesses within and
adjacent. The following are the minimum
questions that should be investigated before embarking on a restoration
 - How old is the building? The most essential piece
of research before starting a restoration project. It is especially important to asses if the building is historic or not.
 - What did it look like?
Consult archives for
photographs that might reveal what the building may have looked like.
Frequently, decorative detailing such as a cornice have been removed
from the building. If photographs reveal that there was a cornice, it
is wise to have one reconstructed. A cornice finishes off the facade of
the commercial building and without one, looks a bit unfinished.
    - What period do I restore the building to? Frequently
commercial buildings, quite old ones, have had many different facades
to reflect the changing periods of architectural style. There is no
precise rule of thumb to follow as to what period is best. Most often
facades are restored to the period that is closest to what it was when
it was originally built, however this is not always possible because
there may be no photographs or material evidence as to what that period
was. Often, this involves quite a bit of guesswork and a talented
architect who can consult the style and character of adjacent
commercial buildings to reconstruct a facade that is in keeping with
the neighboring buildings. This is particularly important to
non-historic buildings that should be tastefully restored but not
necessarily restored to a particular period.
     - How much should I restore?
Ideally, everything on the facade should be restored including
decorative detailing, cornices, decorative window casings, doorways,
and exterior materials to name a few.
   - Find Historic Building Plans: Consult local
archives for floorplans that will be invaluable to the restoration

DO Find an architect: Seeking the expertise of
an architect early in the restoration process will ensure that your
restoration is successful and will save you both and time and money.
 - Find a local architect: A
local architect is best for a restoration project because they are
familiar with the character of the community and the neighborhood in
which the commerical structure resides. In addition, a local architect will have more
access to local archives and resources for ensuring the accuracy of the
restoration than a non-local architect.
 - Find a recommended architect:
Check with a local historical society or historic zoning board for an
architect they recommend for your project. In Lansing, you can contact
the Historical Society of Greater Lansing.

DON'T make
the most common error by overdoing the restoration process with
historic "looking" signage and over-the-top decorative details just to
make the building look old. The point of the restoration is to reveal
the original character of the building but allow it to fit in with the
contemporary time period. Use restraint with signage and decorative
detailing to enhance the character of the building. Adding fake looking
elements will make the building appear cartoonish.

“Eye candy of the Week" is our weekly look at some of the nicer properties in Lansing. It rotates each with Eyesore of the Week. If you have a suggestion, please e-mail or call Neal McNamara at 371-5600 ex. 17.