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Mixed-use buildings make strides in Lansing

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Though 2019 will certainly bring the usual ebb and flow of small business openings and a few closings, this year is poised to see significant development in mixed-use buildings.

Popularized as a way to create a micro city under one roof, mixed-use buildings can contain residential, retail, commercial and light industrial space. These buildings also provide a way to reinvigorate forgotten industrial spaces in the modern economy.

Lansing is home to two of these projects in various stages of development:

Potter’s Mill and The Wing.

“We’ve been getting a lot of interest from developers in the area and externally,” said Brian McGrain, Lansing’s director of economic development and planning. “We are interested in housing and commercial aspects and what interesting things can combine to augment our stock.”

Historic preservation through mixeduse buildings are on the rise, McGrain added.

“Take Grand Rapids or Detroit — even the disinteresting buildings are turned into loft projects,” McGrain said. “People are coming here now and finding out we have this old building stock too. People like these industrial apartments and open-flow work concepts.”

Built in 1889 by the same James W. Potter of Potter Park Zoo, the mill operated on the banks of the Red Cedar river in its prime and later turned into a furniture factory and storage facility for Knapp’s department store before it was left empty.

Significantly renovated, it now has 18 studio apartments and workspaces for rent.

East of REO Town, the Wing on Hazel Street already houses an eclectic assortment of artists — there’s even a boxing gym. Norm Fasteners, a Tesla and John Deere supplier from Turkey, will also call the Wing home.

The building was instrumental in the World War II effort, building the wings of the B-2 bomber. In terms of residential development, The Wing will see 70 to 150 apartments in its upper floors.

CEO of Dymaxion Development Jeff Deehan co-owns the property with Brent Forsberg of T.A. Forsberg Inc. “Mixeduse in general just allows for the market to tell you what a building wants to be,” Deehan said. It is a step away from the traditional way of development, Deehan said. In Deehan's view, single use buildings are "Euclidean" and "boring."

The pair plans to have The Wing open for businesses sometime this summer, pending environmental cleanup. They are in a holding pattern until this work is complete. “Our vision of the Wing would be a vibrant community of artists, makers and light industrial next to each other,” Deehan said. “By mixing these types of people together, they share different resources than what they have individually.”

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