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.