Director of the City of Lansing Development Office Bob Johnson lives seven blocks away from where he works downtown. This is becoming more and more common in downtown Lansing as developers are building housing units that offer everything in one place.
Professor at McGill University and expert in housing and lifestyle Abraham Friedman said that the most popular housing being built are apartments and townhouses.
“One of the things that society is contemplating with is urban sprawl,” Friedman said. “We don’t want to build cities that will sprawl beyond certain limits. Those types of housing, townhouses and apartment buildings, are building higher densities and as a result they allow more people to live in these areas. When more people live in urban areas, it justifies cost of transportation, investment in transportation and investment in other things.”
Director of Marketing and Communications for the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce Eric Dimoff said that there is starting to be a mix of different types of housing. The downtown style living is being mixed with restaurants and retail, which creates a walkability type of environment that young professionals want to see.
“The walkability, the connectivity. You know, people want to live in their apartment, go to work, grab a beer, grab a bite to eat after work all in a walkable distance without having to get in their car,” Dimoff said.
Roxy Maynard is a resident of East Lansing and works in downtown Lansing. Maynard said while she does not live downtown, she has noticed the housing development in the area.
“Yeah, you know there’s construction everywhere. I know they’re building down there (Michigan Avenue). I’ve seen a few news articles about various groups that are upset about it or not upset about it,” Maynard said.
Maynard also said she would like to see more connectivity between Lansing and East Lansing.
Friedman said that the best way to do this is to advertise new housing to attempt to target the type of clientele who tend to live in downtown areas.
“You rarely see a family with children buying a home in the heart of a city,” Freidman said. “People associate families with kids with suburbia. So, if you want to advertise for young people you might want to say this is a hopping place; it has nightlife, it has restaurants, entertainment and I believe this will draw the attention of young people.”
Dimoff said the city is trying to attract Michigan State students, to keep them in the area and the local workforce. New housing development downtown allows people to live, eat and play all in one spot. It will create more connectivity between Lansing and East Lansing, bridging those two areas.
“They are kind of marketing these places as a one stop shop for living,” Dimoff said.
Gillespie Group is one company who’s main focus over the course of 20 years has been to obtain land and build multi-family developments. Vice President of the Gillespie Group Rachel Michaud said that around 2007 and 2008, their interest peaked in urban developments in city proper areas.
The appetite of the younger generations right out of college was pushing the growth of some developments. The company wanted to retain some of that workforce and keep them in Lansing.
According to Michaud, one of the first areas the Gillespie group identified was the Stadium District building on Michigan Avenue across from Cooley Law School Statium. This building is home to retail, offices, apartments and condominiums.
Michaud said that this has also led to identifying and consuming properties in other areas such as Marketplace next to the Lansing River Trail and The Outfield that overlooks Cooley Law School Stadium. The company was also an integral part in developing and opening the Lansing Brewing Company, which helps contribute to the after five energy downtown.
“The Gillespie, really we are, we’d like to really call ourselves more than developers, we like to call ourselves visionaries and catalysts for positive movement and growth and right now our focus is really on our capitol city of Lansing,” Michaud said.
Dimoff said that new housing central to downtown is attracting people to Lansing and it is helping the city compete with other big cities in Michigan such as Grand Rapids and Detroit.
“For the city I think it’s kind of a game changer,” Dimoff said. “A lot of the businesses and community leaders and elected leaders in our region, along with the Lansing Chamber, we really want to see our city thriving. We want to see people walking around downtown, we want to see that walkability, we want to see that community; we want to see neighborhood redevelopment. It’s really a game changer to compete with other cities to attract businesses and investments in our city.”
Dimoff said that in a few years, we will continue to see developers and investors really pushing that walkability aspect and really creating that central and compact feel a downtown area offers.
Michaud said that by building new housing and attracting people to living downtown, they are generating more energy around events and the nightlife. They expect Gillespie Group to be a catalyst to new businesses, new entertainment venues and continued growth in housing as well.
“It means more people residing in the city after five. People are making the decision that Lansing isn’t just a great place to work, it’s a great place to spend their discretionary time,” Michaud said.
The first phase of Marketplace opened at the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015. Michaud said that phase two of the apartments will open in the spring of 2018 and will consist of 79 more units. Phase two will also provide more common area amenities such as a fitness center and dog washing station. They also have a vision of creating an entertainment room on the river with happy hours and special events that will be open to the public.
Michaud said that in the coming years, they see housing expanding with the mixing of generations. They want to expand upon the generations and that will create a demand for more unit types.
“We are a diverse community to begin with. The multi-family units just add to the vibrancy of downtown, supporting businesses, whether it be eateries or small shop retailers,” Johnson said.