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$2 million Rotary Park to revitalize downtown riverfront

Community Foundation matches 11 private donations

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Big plans are underway for some Grand River frontage in downtown Lansing.

Mayor Andy Schor signed an executive order Tuesday to name a slice of parkland between the Lansing City Market and the Shiawassee Street Bridge. And Rotary Park, as it will now be known, will soon encompass a community-driven, $2 million investment to transform the space into a recreational gem.

“A lot of different organizations donated dollars toward redeveloping that part of the city,” Schor explained. “Transforming the riverfront is important. We need to maximize the use of the riverfront; It’s something that I ran on. An active and activated riverfront is an important amenity to have in the community. We need this.”

Community input gathered years ago by the Capital Region Community Foundation identified several priorities to help bolster downtown economic development. Executive Vice President Laurie Strauss Baumer said repeated suggestions for improvements along the riverfront eventually led to the idea for the park.

About $1 million raised through 11 private donations was matched by the community foundation, Baumer said. The Rotary Club of Lansing was the largest donor — with about $400,000 — earning it the naming rights.

“We’re just really thrilled that we had a lot of funders willing to support this project,” Baumer added.

Plans include a transformation of the newly named Delta Dental Plaza behind the Lansing City Market with new furniture, an outdoor fireplace, shade sails and string lighting. A “lighted forest” will also be designed to the north with multi-color lighting and a high-quality sound system near the Lansing River Trail.

Baumer said those portions, labeled Phase I, should be complete by May. The next steps include the construction of a 165-foot staircase from the bridge to the river that should be finished before autumn arrives. The staircase Baumer said, will also meet a newly renovated beachfront at the base of the Grand River.

A new performance venue labeled the “HUB” —for Happening Under the Bridge — will also allow for small concerts within Rotary Park during the warmer months. About $1.2 million in donations will be used to enhance the riverfront; The rest will be set aside for maintenance.

Baumer and Schor were joined for today’s announcement by Rotary Club board member Kevin Schumacher and Jack Schripsema, president and CEO of the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“We have a beautiful riverfront that needs to be used,” Schumacher said. “There couldn’t be a better gift for us to give the city of Lansing than this gift.”

Delta Dental, Dewpoint, Auto-Owners Insurance and the Gillespie Group were recognized for their contributions.

“This project isn’t just about a pretty park or a pretty penny,” said Margaret Trimer, director of communications and corporate citizenship at Delta Dental of Michigan. “This project is about young people who are full of dreams, full of potential, and will be empowered to transform our community in ways we never dreamed of.”

The City of Lansing will also provide brownfield development reimbursement funds for part of the project to help generate private investments along the riverfront.

“Once of the great things you get to do as mayor is name different parks,” Schor said. “This one is an easy one because Rotary — and really many others as well — are really doing a lot to help transform our city in this area.”

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