What is Old Town Lansing? The old neighborhood may be stretching beyond its original boundaries. Those who live and work here are really trying to expand what people think of as Old Town. For example, the Golden Harvest and Ozone’s Brewhouse to the north; Scoop’s, Strings n Things and Elderly Instruments to the west; and Preuss Pets and Zoobie’s to the east are all a part of town, according to Matt Hund, Old Town Commercial Association board member. But it’s not as simple as simply extending borders.
Whether you are passing or just stopping by, the first couple of things you may notice are all the beautiful and unique art pieces displayed that ultimately shows what Old Town is all about. When Old Town was revitalized in the late 80’s and early 90’s, there were a lot of empty buildings being bought by artists that would use them for studios, media studios, and professional art galleries. It has been the type of area where creative businesses have made it their home, according to Sarah Christiansen, Old Town Commercial Association board member and owner of Katalyst Gallery and Gift Boutique. Dawn Gorman is the communications and events manager at the Arts Council of Greater Lansing, discussed how Old Town became an art district along with how each sculpture, mural, and any piece of art is made. “When Old Town first started out, the main people that were doing stuff in the area were artists,” said Gorman.
Folks from around Old Town can tell you all the time that having such a close community and successful small businesses are what makes Old Town so unique, different, and almost complete. However, there is one thing that a few residents wish to see in the nearby future. Andrea Kerbuski, one of the few residents in Old Town believes there is a lack of restaurant options in the area. Sweetielicious is set to open and it is the type of place needed in the area to balance out the existing restaurants and provide residents with more options. “It is hard to get into places like Golden Harvest and we need at least another five more food places to eat at to make it more diverse and more of an attraction to city residents and visitors,” said Kerbuski.
When you think about Lansing, you think about the Michigan State Capitol, Michigan State University, St. Mary Cathedral, and the Porter Park Zoo. However there is not much talk when it comes to people talking about Old Town, as many people have yet to visit this unique and vibrant area that provides its residents with something new every month consistently for so many years. From the Chocolate Walk, Taste and Tour, Chalk of the Town, and ScrapFest, Old Town provide its residents and visitors with a new event or activity every month to make it unlike anywhere else throughout Lansing. These events really appeal to families and young professionals throughout Old Town as many events are successful, however the success does not all just come from community participation.
With new buildings coming into Old Town this past year, Old Town has expanded its borders to the biggest it has ever been. Although why are these businesses heading to Old Town to start? One draw is that Old Town is known for being a very artistic and hipster type of town with many common coffee shops and young fashion-type of stores. Recently, two new establishments have opened known as The Grid Arcade and Bar that includes an arcade inside a bar, which is something different than what Old Town has had in the past. Also opening was the Ozone’s Brewhouse that recently opened last spring, which is located on 305 Beaver St.
With Old Town looking to expand in 2017, some residents are concerned with businesses renting and buying out recently-closed restaurants or retail stores near them and using the ground-level storefronts for office space. Old Town is filled with vibrant, exclusive, and unique shops. However, there has been some controversy when there is a vacant building that recently just closed, as some businesses tend to rent out that building for office space instead of letting other future shops rent or buy it out, according to some residents. Andrea Kerbuski, a frequent Old Town customer, wishes there were more different options such as quick restaurants and other different shops. She hopes that some businesses will try to transition office spaces to upstairs spaces to create more retail and restaurant space at the street level.
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.
The successful events and volunteer service in the past year has been nothing but amazing for the citizens of Old Town. However, it is ready for the next step of expanding. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Lansing’s unemployment rate has dropped nearly 10 percent over the past 10 years, however in cities like Detroit it remains at 12 percent. With families being brought in from the city because of how expensive it is to live there, Old Town must look toward to the future and expand. The main goal of Old Town business leadership for 2017 is deciding whether or not they should expand its boundary physically or the overall perception of it.