Properties: 517 and 519 W. Grand River Ave. (Grand River Coffee Café and Archives Book Shop)

Owner: Lansing Farm Products

Assessed value: $135,300 

It’s easy to take great design for granted. Take the intersection of Rosewood and West Grand River avenues in East Lansing. It really has it all, and what makes this intersection so great is its mixed uses — single family residential, low-rise multi-family and commercial — all within an eighth of a mile.

Have you noticed the commercial bit? Have you taken the time to think about what makes it so great? It’s simple. Archives Book Shop and Grand River Coffee Café are two single-story storefronts easily missed because they blend in so well, from exterior materials to form and mass.  It is easy to love them not just for the bookstore/coffee shop combo, but also for how naturally the buildings fit in with their surroundings. Unlike so many vast commercial stretches that conflict with adjacent residential, this is a lesson in seamless urbanism. Scale, use and context are what make it work.