A large mural painted on the side of a building is one of the first things visitors to Old Town see. Photo by Kaley Fech.

The arts help drive Old Town’s revitalization

One of the first things visitors to Old Town may notice are the large letters reading “Art District” along the fence at the end of Turner Street. Old Town Lansing is known as the Art District, and for good reason. There are several art galleries located here, including Absolute Gallery, Great Lakes Artworks, Katalyst Gallery, and the Michigan Institute for Contemporary Art Gallery. These galleries feature a variety of artists. Great Lakes Artworks, located at 306 E. Grand River Ave., features artwork created exclusively by artists in the Lansing area.

A variety of businesses in Old Town participate in Old Town 4-3-50. Photo by Kaley Fech.

Old Town 4-3-50 helps keep money in the community

For areas like Old Town, it is essential that they keep money within their local community. Many of the businesses are owned and operated by individuals who rely on their business for their livelihood. This is easier said than done. However, the Old Town Commercial Association has devised a program with the hope of keeping money in Old Town. Old Town 4-3-50 is a project within community, and its goals are to support the businesses in the neighborhood and keep money in the community, according to the OTCA’s website.

Volunteers work tirelessly to help keep the Old Town community beautiful. Photo by Kaley Fech.

Volunteers help Old Town thrive

Volunteers are oftentimes the unsung heroes keeping small communities alive. In Old Town, the volunteers allow the community to not only survive, but to thrive. Ken Schroeppel, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Denver and an expert in downtown revitalization, said that if people are really committed to their local community, there is a much greater chance for success. The people of Old Town have certainly taken this concept to heart. Matt Hund, a resident of Old Town as well as a member of the Board of Directors, said that volunteers are an integral part of the community.

Cars fill the parking lot of Olympic Broil, no matter the time of day. The restaurant is open from 10:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It is closed on Sunday. Photo by Kaley Fech.

Olympic Broil withstands the test of time

As he sits in his restaurant, Olympic Broil owner Mike Alexander interacts with almost every customer that walks through the door, and he knows many of them by name. Like a typical boy growing up in Michigan in the 1960s, Alexander spent his summer days wandering down to the river with his friends to drop a fishing line in the water and hang out. “One summer they were building the Dog n Suds,” Alexander said. “Being the young guys we were, my friend and I thought it was great to watch the welders work.”

At the time, Alexander had no idea he’d spend the majority of his life working in this very same place. Originally a Dog n Suds in the 1960s, Mike’s father Jim Alexander acquired the property at 1320 N. Grand River Ave.

Parking is available along the streets in Old Town, including Turner Street (pictured). Photo by Kaley Fech.

Old Town facing an old issue: problems with parking

Anyone who has ever been to a city has more than likely experienced the frustrations that come with trying to find parking. This problem is not isolated to bigger cities; even smaller communities experience such issues. More than likely, any place that attracts larger numbers of people will face struggles when it comes to parking. Old Town is no exception. During her day job, Jamie Schriner-Hooper, president of the board of directors for the Old Town Commercial Association, works in communities across the state.

Great Lakes Artworks is an artist owned cooperative gallery located in Old Town. Photo by Kaley Fech.

Great Lakes Artworks more than just an art gallery; it’s an art cooperative

From the outside, Great Lakes Artworks may simply appear to a passerby as a place that sells art. After all, that’s technically what an art gallery is. Darrell Taylor, director of the University of Northern Iowa Gallery of Art, states that an art gallery is any space that seeks to present art forms.

Great Lakes Artworks fits this definition. However, it is also so much more than that. Great Lakes Artworks has been an artist owned cooperative gallery since 2011.