Property: 801-803 N. Sycamore St., Lansing
Owner: Dolores Nagel
Assessed: $80,100

Architecture critic Amanda Harrell-Seyburn says: North Sycamore Street’s largest residence, 801-803, reveals that lack of attention to details can compromise what was once an elegant home. Mismatched doors and entry-surrounds are one of the fastest ways to detract and depreciate the aesthetic value of a handsome building. Dissimilar doors and entry surrounds, especially multi-frontal entries, are visually confusing. Although it is not necessary for the door and entries to be identical it is essential that they be of the same architectural style.

A lesson on doors and entry-surrounds from Harrell-Seyburn:

Doors and entry-surrounds are very important features of buildings and can make or break the overall aesthetic. The Sycamore residence has two different front entry doors visible at 801 and 803 (802, the third, is boarded-up), of contrasting architectural styles. 801’s entry is a Colonial Revival style with fluted pilasters and decorative detailing typically found on a Greek or Federal Revival style building. In contrast, 803’s entry is simplistic with plain trim and a metal storm door. A few restorations to the facade including replacing the entry-surrounds and doors of 802 and 803 with stylistically similar ones to 801 will help return this house to its original beauty.


Left to right:  801 N. Sycamore St., 803 N. Sycamore St. and a proposed replacement rendering
for 802 and 803 N. Sycamore St. By Amanda Harrell-Seyburn

There are three important rules of thumb to follow when choosing doors and entry-surrounds:

1. Entry-surrounds should stylistically correspond with the architectural style of the building.
2. Doors should stylistically correspond with their entry-surrounds.
3. Do not combine stylistically dissimilar doors and/or entry-surrounds on the same facade.

No matter how much money is spent on the perfect roof, paint colors and other details, if the door is wrong, everything looks off.

The Lansing City Council may send this week’s eyesore to the make safe or demolish list, but property owner Dolores Nagel says the city should consider giving her a pass because she has already started renovations.

“I put a new roof on there, started foundational work and have help from the neighbors,” said Nagel, a 75-year-old retired nurse.

At-Large Councilwoman Carl Wood said that if Nagel is able to pull building, mechanical, electrical and plumbing permits and also show Council a clear itinerary for rehabbing the property, Nagel can keep the house. But if not, it’s goodbye to 801-803 N. Sycamore St.

Nagel purchased the property in 1994 when it was zoned as a three-unit home. About four years later, Nagel said the city rezoned the 4,000 square-foot building as a two-unit. As a landlord, this made the property a tough sell for Nagel.

The property has been vacant for the past seven years and was red-tagged in 2002, Wood said. Nagel said she has been paying off a mortgage at $1,300 per month since then.

After she invested $17,000 in a new roof two years ago, the property is still red-tagged and lacks a single permit. Wood said Nagel approached City Council to get a variance to have the property rezoned as a three-unit, but since there are no permits, that won’t happen.

Nagel rents out three other properties in Lansing, which she said are doing fine and are up to code. It wouldn’t make good business sense to sell them and use the cash on 801-803 N. Sycamore St., she said, but would if it did.


— Andy Balaskovitz

“Eyesore of the Week is our look at some of the seedier properties in Lansing. It rotates each week with Eye Candy of the Week. If you have a suggestion, please e-mail or call Andy Balaskovitz at 371- 5600 ex. 17.