Address: Corner of Forbes Street and Verlinden Avenue, Lansing
Owner: Lansing Board of Water and Light

Owner says: We try to match our substations to neighborhood aesthetics. Its important for these buildings to blend in. And, we believe in regular upkeep, because the Verlinden neighborhood is a classic, older neighborhood that is also well cared for by its residents.

Architecture critic Amanda Harrell-Seyburn says: There are numerous less well-known public works buildings hidden throughout the city that deserve attention, such as the Forbes Street Substation. To lean more from Amanda Harrell-Seyburn, see this story at

Nestled in Lansings Westside Neighborhood, the Forbes Substation — built in 1936 — is a great example of how even basic public works buildings deserve quality architecture. Often mistaken for a bank, the station is a beautiful Mediterranean revival style brick structure with terracotta rooftiles, decorative brickwork, and vast arched windows. Elegantly adorned but appropriately scaled for its residential surroundings, it is an asset to the neighborhood and a gem to live near.

The substation is one of the highlights of the Westside Neighborhood. Take time to explore your neighborhoods and discover other small but elegantly appointed public works structures.

A Lesson on Civic Architecture by Amanda Harrell-Seyburn:

architecture is in crisis. It seems that with each passing year, civic
structures are becoming increasingly less celebrated. Good community
architecture has a hierarchy. Civic buildings should be the highest
form of architecture in the community. A civic building should be easy
to identify because it is of a quality and design that denotes it as a
civic building.

However, quality civic architecture shouldn't be
reserved for only large civic structures such as the Capitol,
public library, or city hall (to name a few). Small structures, such as
public works, make up the majority of our community fabric and deserve
as much attention as the large structures.

Public works should
also be celebrated with architecture. During the Industrial Revolution,
public works were housed in beautiful buildings, such as the Forbes
Substation, to celebrate achievements in power. Today however, public
works are frequently unsightly eyesores. But housed in an elegantly
appointed building, public works become an asset to a community, such
as the Forbes Substation.

DO: as a community, celebrate public
works with quality architecture. Even as we turn increasingly to
alternative forms of energy, it is important not to forget that the
form is an important as the function. Alternative forms of energy
should be celebrated with architecture that enhances civic pride.

let your community make the most common error by allowing public works,
including alternative forms of energy, to be unsightly. Too often,
public works are simply surrounded by a chain-link fence or housed in
unattractive utilitarian structures. Neither one of these solutions are
desirable for neighborhood character. Nobody wants to live or work next
door to an unattractive public works building.


“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.