Get comfortable

By Neal McNamara

Lansing moves ahead to market for sale Old Town's Comfort Station

At Monday night’s Lansing City Council meeting, Sherry Shaw took to the podium to remind people of her deceased mother, Thelma Osteen.

Osteen was once a leader of the North Lansing Community Association and instrumental in saving the Turner-Dodge House. A plaque on a historic building in Old Town commemorates her memory. Shaw asked that if the city does sell that historic building, that the plaque remain and not be covered.

There was no immediate response to Shaw’s question. But the city is on its way to selling the building, which is commonly know as the Comfort Station. It is the two-story red brick building between Pablo’s Panaderia and a seldom-used railroad track. The building once served as a public restroom and waiting area for rail travelers.

Monday night was the public hearing for the marketing for sale of the station, and besides Shaw, not many spoke either for or against the city’s sale of the 97-year old building at 313 W. Grand River Ave.

The building was a bone of contention between the city and the North Lansing Community Association in 2002. The city essentially evicted the association after leasing the building to the group for $1 per year for 22 years. The city then sent out a “request for proposal” to sell the building to another community group, but none responded.

The city is seeking to sell it again, this time to any buyer that is interested. The City Council will still have to sign off on the sale of the building.

City Attorney Brig Smith says that there are no legal issues with the sale of the building, despite questions that had been raised about whether the North Lansing association was owed money for upkeep of a city building, and also whether the building was considered park property, which would require a vote of city residents before a sale could take place. Lansing Economic Development Corp. President Bob Trezise says that that the building was appraised a year ago at $130,000.

Planning and Neighborhood Development Director Bob Johnson said that his department will take care of marketing the building if the Council approves the sale.

Former First Ward Councilman Harold Leeman came to Monday’s public hearing. Leeman once maintained an office on the second floor of the two-story building. He remembered the building as a beacon for the community, which is what he would like to see the building become again.

“It would be a shame to not have it be a community building,” he said. “I’d hate to see it turned into lofts. There is a need for a community use building.”