Category Archives: Local News

Old Town could see the effects of the shift back into the urban core

On The Grand condos on Turner Street in Old Town Photo by Zachary Barnes

On The Grand condos on Turner Street in Old Town
Photo by Zachary Barnes

By Zachary Barnes
Old Town Lansing Times Staff Reporter

Old Town is subject to the population shift of millennials moving back into the urban core, after so many years of sprawl, because of its walkability and number of things to do.

“What we seem to be observing is that young millennials seem to have different interests and life style choices,” said Rex LaMore, a member of Michigan State University’s Urban and Regional Planning faculty. “They want to be in interesting places where there are a lot of opportunity and things to do. So they are moving back into central cities.”

Old Town offers an array of unique festivals, an assortment of different styles of restaurants, and many niche shops as well as shops for basic necessities. Tara Smith, the marketing lead at Gillespie Group developing, says these are the kinds of places recent college grads and younger people, specifically millennials, are looking for when they are searching for a place to live. Time magazine defined a millennial as someone born between the years of 1980 and 2000.

“Those little neighborhoods with the culture, and the walkability, and the lofts above the shops; they’re so eclectic and cute. We’re finding that these neighborhoods that are their own pocket of the city is something that is really popular right now, especially with millennials and recent grads from MSU,” said Smith.

Those now in the market to buy or rent are willing to sacrifice square footage or a grand kitchen if it means they can live in an accessible neighborhood with lots to do and a good community feel to it, like Old Town.

“We’re seeing that the focus used to be a lot on the inside of the units, but now it’s on the neighborhoods,” said Smith who has been involved with Gillespie Group for 12 years. “People choose now not so much on the inside, but where the community is located.”

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Tensions rise as unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries continue to grow in Lansing

Co-owners of Puff N' Stuff dispensary Ronnie Sartain, right, and Brian Hamilton, left, pose for a portrait inside their store. Both Sartain and Hamilton share a passion for the legalization of medical marijuana. By: Emily Elconin

Co-owners of Puff N’ Stuff dispensary Ronnie Sartain, right, and Brian Hamilton, left, pose for a portrait inside their store. Both Sartain and Hamilton share a passion for the legalization of medical marijuana.
By: Emily Elconin

By Emily Elconin
Old Town Lansing Times Staff Reporter

Co-owners Brian Hamilton and Ronnie Sartain of Puff N’ Stuff dispensary located at 229 W. Grand River Ave. in Old Town share a passion for the legalization of medical marijuana. After sustaining personal injuries from a motorcycle accident and a broken ankle, Hamilton and Sartain made a decision to stop using opiates to alleviate pain and start using cannabis as an alternative painkiller.

Although medical marijuana is considered by some experts to be a viable alternative to traditional painkillers, tensions continue to rise in Lansing regarding a new ordinance that addresses regulation and zoning for medical marijuana facilities.

 display of medical cannabis at Puff N' Stuff dispensary. Hamilton said certain strains can be specific to each patient. By: Emily Elconin

A display of medical cannabis at Puff N’ Stuff dispensary. Hamilton said certain strains can be specific to each patient.
By: Emily Elconin

As dispensaries surrounding the outskirts of Old Town still remain unregulated, the amount of dispensaries open raises concern for public safety in the community.

Today there are approximately 60 marijuana shops around Lansing that are unregulated, according to Director of Government Relations for the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce Steve Japinga.

“What we’ve been working on with the mayor and city council is to implement common sense regulations and update the marijuana ordinance,” Japinga said, “Every other business in town is regulated including food, pharmacy, medicine, and alcohol. This is now the only sector that are unregulated and that’s where our concern lies with these centers opening up all over the place.”

Earlier in April, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero issued a moratorium on unregulated medical marijuana provisioning centers which prohibits any new facilities from opening.

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Filed under Ballot Issues, Future, Local News, Marijuana, Michigan, Neighborhood, Politics, Small Businesses

Crime on a steady decline in Old Town

By Sakiya Duncan
Old Town Lansing Times Staff Reporter

Despite a rough past, Old Town has seen crime decline as it becomes one of the safer places in Lansing.

Crimes such as destruction to property, larceny and burglary have been on a steady decline in Old Town. What is Old Town doing to make sure that its crime stays low? By joining efforts between the community of Old Town and the Lansing Police Department.

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Graph by: Sakiya Duncan

Austin Ashley, the executive director of the Old Town Commercial Association, says, “Old Town has banned together to have a neighborhood watch, we coordinate and cooperate with authorities, and we have invested in our community to make it less hospitable for criminals.”

Old Town Commercial Association (OTCA) board president Jamie Schriner-Hooper says it has something to do with the filling of vacancies. ” We welcome anyone who wants to work with us to continue to make our community great.”

At the Lansing Police Department (LPD), Public Information Officer Robert Merritt says the LDP is ” A data driven department.” This means that the department tracks reported crime and if they pick up on a unique crime trend they will then send out a tack force and target the area to stop the crime from happening, said Merritt.

“This is was we call proactive policing and  we try to get out in front of the crime trend” he said,

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The Nature Conservancy is working to help the environment

The Nature Conservancy located at 101 E Grand River Ave. Photo By: Sakiya Duncan

The Nature Conservancy located at 101 E Grand River Ave. Photo By: Sakiya Duncan

By Sakiya Duncan
Old Town Lansing Times Staff Reporter

Without places such as The Nature Conservancy or the Fenner Nature Center, our environment could be on a steady decline and natural resources, and our wildlife and land would be suffering.

The Nature Conservancy is located at 101 E. Grand River Ave. The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to help preserve and protect natural resources.

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Creative energy in Old Town is fueling growth for community

Executive director of the Old Town Commercial Association Austin Ashley poses for a portrait on April 12, 2016 at his favorite spot in Old Town called the fish ladder. Ashley started at OTCA as an intern five years ago and is now the executive director. He is a huge advocate for the arts and plays a very significant role in helping Old Town discover its true strengths and potential.

Executive director of the Old Town Commercial Association Austin Ashley poses for a portrait on April 12, 2016 at his favorite spot in Old Town called the fish ladder. Ashley started at OTCA as an intern five years ago and is now the executive director. He is a huge advocate for the arts and plays a very significant role in helping Old Town discover its true strengths and potential.

By Emily Elconin
Old Town Lansing Times Staff Reporter

From the beginning, the neighborhood of Old Town has been a creative, kooky, and eccentric place that vibrates with a colorful and inviting energy. From the moment you walk down Turner Street, it is evident there is a new chapter being written here in Old Town. There is a story to be shared on every corner.

As Old Town continues to grow, so do the people who are helping Old Town come back stronger than ever before.

Old Town is in the process of planning exciting summer festivals and a new event called Arts Night Out, where four neighborhoods in Lansing including Old Town, East Lansing,REO Town, and Downtown Lansing will feature all different kinds of art to draw in the younger community and help the arts community thrive all over Lansing, beginning in Old Town.

Opportunities are growing for the people of Old Town and whoever visits to share their stories and passion for the arts community.

Austin Ashley, Executive Director of the Old Town Commercial Association located at 1232 Turner St., started as an intern five years ago. Ashley stayed on as a volunteer and worked on different committees. Last year, he was appointed Executive Director.

Ashley has played a significant role in helping Old Town grow and says Old Town is like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

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Filed under Commercial Association, Local News, Old Town, Retail, Small Businesses

LGBT is A-OK: Acceptance is important for Old Town

Old Town is considered the art district in Lansing. Photo by Zachary Barnes

Old Town is considered the art district in Lansing.
Photo by Zachary Barnes

Zachary Barnes
Old Town Lansing Times Staff Reporter

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community has been a big part of Old Town’s rich history and the acceptance of it is a big reason why those within the neighborhood and visitors feel a close-knit, family-like bond.

Acceptance is in Old Town’s fabric.

The tolerance for those that identify as LGBT can be seen as a symbol of the openness Old Town has for people of all colors, backgrounds, gender, sexual orientation, and beliefs. Maintaining the ability to express yourself and feeling welcome at all times is a huge part of the Old Town fabric.

General Manager of Spiral Dance Bar, Sam Courtney, says it’s important for Old Town businesses to promote a welcoming and a tolerant message.

“I’ve been involved with the LGBT community my whole life,” said Courtney. “Whether it’s fundraisers or marches or events, supporting a safe place to be out and be yourself or brining issues to focus around the LGBT community” has been important.

Being accepting of different is what makes Old Town who they are according to Courtney. Naturally those that embrace different will gravitate towards it.

“Old Town has always been funky, cool, cutting edge. It’s for someone that wants to try something a little different, and that’s what it’s always wanted to be,” said the general manager of the gay bar. “In the LGBT community there is art, expression, and self-expression and being yourself has always been an important thing for people in that community.”

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Old Town reliant on volunteering to stay afloat

Old Town looking over the Grand River Photo credit: iloveoldtown.org

Old Town looking over the Grand River
Photo credit: iloveoldtown.org

By Zachary Barnes
Old Town Lansing Times Staff Reporter

Volunteers have allowed Old Town to become what it is today, and are also the reason it remains such a vibrant community.

Whether it be the upcoming Taste and Tour of Old Town event where guests can sample food from various restaurants in the Old Town area while touring Old Town property or Oktoberfest where visitors can dance to their favorite polka song, Old Town is known for its festivals. Festivals continue to be the heart and soul of the community.

But with only one and half employees working for the Old Town Commercial Association, people dedicated to the growth of Old Town are a necessity to put on these events.

Without volunteers, there are no festivals, without any festivals there is no money for the neighborhood, without any money Old Town is back to a red light district.

“We rely heavily on volunteers. In order to have our festivals we need our volunteers to come down here and help us. Without volunteers coming down here we can’t really function our festivals,” said the Old Town Commercial Association Programming Director, Heather Mossing. “Moon and Sun and Oktoberfest [pay for] 70 percent of our budget down here at the Old Town Commercial Association. Without those we would probably not be here.”

Festivals, fueled by volunteers, are the reason residents or visitors will see any of the aesthetics and even things that seem very normal to a community.

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Filed under Commercial Association, Local News, Neighborhood