Downtown Lansing: A Michigan Main Street community

By Sam Inglot
Sam Inglot/City Pulse

Lansing becomes first city in Michigan with multiple districts in the program

Friday, March 8 — With downtown Lansing’s recent designation as a Michigan Main Street community, Downtown Lansing Inc. will have access to roughly $250,000 worth of technical assistance from the state to continue improving the area.

On Feb. 25, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority announced that downtown Lansing joins 18 other communities around the state as a Selected Level Michigan Main Street community.

Lansing is the first in Michigan to have multiple districts in a city as part of the program, said Joseph Borgstrom, director of downtown and community services division of the MSHDA. Old Town has been part of the program since 2006.

Borgstrom spoke to a crowd today inside The Exchange on Michigan Avenue, where the designation was celebrated with drinks, food and a banner drop. The goal of the Michigan Main Street program is centered on the revitalization of downtown districts, Borgstrom said.

“It’s through historic preservation. It’s about protecting these great buildings that we have. It’s about getting people living downtown. It’s about getting businesses active downtown,” he said. “It’s about transforming it into a place where people want to live all the time and not just be here for work.”

The designation gives Downtown Lansing Inc. access to training and consultation through the Michigan Main Street Program. A few services include: Design services, commercial real estate development training, retail and special event training, branding services and housing market studies.

Downtown Lansing Inc., formerly known as the Principal Shopping District, oversees general maintenance and marketing and promotional activities in the city’s central business district. That area is bounded by St. Joseph, Larch and Shiawassee streets and Capitol Avenue. The city’s budget for this fiscal year included a $39,180 General Fund appropriation for Downtown Lansing Inc. It’s projected to bring in nearly $700,000 in revenues this fiscal year, more than half of which comes from special assessments on businesses.

“Over the next five years, we’ve got a number of tools, roughly estimated to be worth about $200,000 to $250,000 of technical assistance that we procure through the state that we bring in for these communities that are part of the program,” Borgstrom said. “Where I think downtown Lansing has really made leaps and strides in the past couple years is that they’ve got people to stay here and live here. So the idea is that we continue to build on that.”

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero also spoke about the growth of downtown. He said people used to joke that you could “roll a bowling ball down Michigan Avenue” and not hit anything — that’s no longer the case, he said.

“You can feel the excitement downtown,” he said. “It’s palpable, people feel it.”