Old Town looking to bring in young professionals

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Old Town is known for being very artistic with its many paintings and murals.

Josh Chung

Old Town is known for being very artistic with its many paintings and murals Photo by Joshua Chung

Paintings, murals, start-up businesses, and the club life, are just some of the few things that makes Lansing’s Old Town neighborhood one of the top places to expand young professional connections as they start their new careers.

You would think that Old Town would be your typical small town that many older folks stop by for a morning coffee at your local restaurants and your typical local businesses you see at every small town. It is quite the opposite here in Old Town, as most of its population consists of young professional adults residing here and is known as the most artistic part of Lansing.

It is not the history of Old Town that makes it attractive to young professionals, it is the overall community and the benefits it offers to students and young adults starting their future careers, according to current residents.

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There are many different murals and unique paintings across Old Town. Photo by Joshua Chung

“I would say it is a place where it is a start-up for young adults looking to start small and expand from there throughout their career,” said Ben Dowd, a 34-year-old resident of Old Town for over a decade and current board member of Old Town Commercial Association. “You can just see when you look at the artistic murals and colorful paintings across the town, just shows what kind of people live here and overall atmosphere of the community.”

Networking events are usually held down here and because it is such a small neighborhood, it allows you to develop better relationships with future co-workers or bosses and helps boosts companies as you build connections on an informal level, according to Dowd.

There is a lot of the nightlight in Old Town that is one of the main attractions that draws a lot of young professionals here. There are several pub meetings held at different locations across Old Town that hosts numerous business meetings or bringing in new clients that would be difficult to find quickly in larger cities like the capital or Detroit, which is really beneficial to many young adults, according to Dowd.

“Weekends and Friday nights, I usually see a lot of younger crowds come to visit because of our attractions such as the Spiral Video and Dance bar,” said Dowd. “It has that club atmosphere that everyone enjoys and allows many students and young adults to meet new people and expand their connections.”

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The Spiral Video & Dance club is one of the main attractions towards young college students and adults. Photo by Joshua Chung

Andrea Kerbuski, a fashion and lifestyle blogger and current resident of Old Town loves the benefits and the relationships she has built over the years. Kerbuski was never a big fan of going to Downtown Lansing and Detroit at the beginning of her career right out of school and just enjoys Old Town and that small community connection every time she is there.

“I love this area because it really does appeal do a hipster type of community towards young college students,” said Kerbuski. “It brings festivals, creative people and I love my freelance clients who have space in the area.”

Spending a lot of time visiting the store fronts, grabbing daily morning coffee from Bloom Coffee Roasters, and eating as Cosmos are just some of the few things that a lot of young professionals just really enjoy doing in their spare time while meeting new people, according to Kerbuski.

Sean Lyons, associate professor at the University of Guelph and an expert in career development says there is plenty of evidence to suggest that younger, educated people have tended to relocate to metropolitan centers where job opportunities are more abundant.

“Many smaller towns have only one or two employers of choice, and for those who wish to remain in those towns, it is competitive to get work in the small number of organizations that offer good opportunities,” said the career development expert. “For career advancement alone, big cities are the clear winner in my opinion.”

However, life is more than work. In terms of quality of life, many people prefer the pace and lifestyle that smaller towns provide, according to Lyons.

Maggie Vance, a staff member at Retail Therapy, believes that Old Town is not looking to be the next Grand River and being over run by college students. Bringing in anyone to Old Town benefits the businesses and many shops price points attract young professionals who have more to spend.

“I live in the city, but work in Old Town and have worked in the creative field as a designer as when I was looking for jobs I wanted to be more selective,” said Vance. “I was very lucky to find where I am working, because I am not just working a retail job, but I am working with more luxury brands, styling and personally shopping for women, and I am learning the ins and outs of owning a small business thanks to Old Town.”

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Many young professionals will come to coffee shops like Bloom Coffee Roasters to work on projects. Photo by Joshua Chung

Creative young professionals and millennial are attracted to this shift in our culture that emphasizes shopping local and shopping small. I think people are looking for more sustainable ways to buy and Old Town offers that alternative for instance buying less, but buying quality, according to Vance.

“People who intentionally shop in to Old Town do it because they are looking for something different than what a box store offers, “said Vance. “I do not see many young college students down here unless they just need to get off campus, but I do know that grad students and young professors visit frequent bars and shops in Old Town.”

Professor Eddy Ng at Dalhousie University and an expert on millennial and career issues, says that one of the main reasons that young professionals choose small towns over city life is real estate pricing is a lot to deal with for students looking to start their careers right out of school. Along with the disadvantages that many young professionals need to adjust to as they settle in.

“Large cities have their own shortcomings such as overcrowding, traffic congestions, and declining transit and infrastructures,” said the expert in career development. “Many are also attracted to smaller towns and rural areas for the laid back, country charm lifestyle.”

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From coffee shops to the art gallery and the dance bar, Old Town provides a variety of shops and businesses that attracts many young professionals. Photo by Joshua Chung

In this day in age technology has taken over, and the Internet makes it seem possible to be “involved in” to the hustle and bustle of the city life, however without all the hassles that comes with it that they do not really talk about. Smaller towns are also a great place to build relationships and begin the start of your new life, according to Ng.

Ng discussed whether it is a better idea to start your professional career in a smaller town or a larger city to gain better experience or better connections possibly. Depending on your line of work, some careers such as investment banking are only available in large (financial) centers. Careers such as writing, coding, and teaching can be found or performed in smaller towns and rural areas, according to Ng.

“It is definitely advantageous to start your career in cities to develop your networks and social capital,” said Ng. “Once you have established yourself, it is much easier to move to smaller towns if the work can be performed long distance or through electronic means.”

“Cities are a good place to be when you’re young and have fewer commitments, because they are expensive and fast paced and well suited to a young person’s life,” said Lyons. “But small towns are a nice place to settle down and build a longer-term sustainable life and from what I here Old Town sounds like it.”

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