Old Town: a neighborhood of uniqueness

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A cozy feel, one-of-a-kind shops, gourmet food, and everything artsy: that’s the definition of Old Town for residents and visitors.

“It’s very different from what you’d find in the Greater Lansing area where it’s mostly restaurant-based where we’re more boutique-based,” said Kathy Holcomb, owner of the Absolute Gallery.

Old Town which was founded in 1825 when a surveying crew plotted and charted the land, holds several historic buildings and history deep in its concrete.

By the late 20th century, the neighborhood hit hard times and buildings were left abandoned.

Dedicated and determined people wouldn’t stand for the decay of the neighborhood so they worked to rebuild it and make it better, according to the Old Town website.

In 1996, the Mainstreet program in Old Town was established and, since then, crime rates have fallen and less buildings are vacant.

Today, being known as the art district of Lansing, it brings in visitors from all over.

The neighborhood offers visitors a variety of things to do, said Alexandria Torres, an employee at Cravings Gourmet Popcorn.

“During the summer, there’s so many festivals and events that go on…even the holidays people will come here for, like, Christmas shopping,” Torres said.

Besides festivals and events, the neighborhood offers convenience, said Holcomb.

“There’s a lot going on in Old Town: it’s walkable, we have a little grocery store, we have clothing stores, we have art galleries, we have baby stores and so you can walk to pretty much anything you might need,” Holcomb said.

On top of that, restaurants, bars, and evening entertainment are offered.

Customers are seen as family to the employees and owners, Holcomb said.

“It’s not like you’re going into a big-box store and you’re just another paycheck,” Holcomb said. “Here you’re a person and we really aim to make you feel special.”

How Old Town residents make the neighborhood

As much as it is the shops that define Old Town, residents say it is the people that shape it.

Alissa Sweet, owner of Sweet Custom Jewelry, has been in the neighborhood for two years and said she was welcomed with open arms.

“The whole community is really like a big family,” Sweet said. “Everybody, especially business owners, all work together.”

Sweet said that the neighborhood homes people ranging from young couples getting engaged to couples celebrating their 60th anniversary.

They stay because of the community, she said.

“People are just more friendly to others,” Torres said.

People are always moving to the region because of how caring everyone is.

There are “lots of people who actually live in Old Town and work in Old Town that will take new people around and show them the bars and the restaurants and the different shops,” Sweet said.

“The people in Old Town come from a variety of different backgrounds,” Holcomb said. “Everybody’s a little bit different.”

The historic look of the neighborhood creates a vacation-vibe for visitors and residents.

Sweet said it “kind of feels like you’re on vacation.”

Different events, like Pride events, have kept the neighborhood moving and attract foot-traffic.

“Old Town has evolved with the different things that are going on in the world,” Sweet said.

Click here to learn more about Old Town.