By Katie Harrington
Old Town Times staff writer
Old Town may be a Lansing treasure, full of art and entertainment and growing in popularity each day. But to some, Old Town has extended its boundaries too far into neighboring residential areas, and recently there has been an increasing problem of where exactly those boundaries are.
The issue of Old Town’s borders first began to unfold with the opening of Rizzi Designs, located on North Pine Street in Lansing.
“When they opened, [The owner of Rizzi Designs] stated that she was in Old Town when she is not,” said Rina Risper, the publisher of The New Citizens Press and a resident of the Walnut neighborhood in Lansing. “She did this to market herself better. In my opinion it’s deceptive marketing.”
Although Rizzi Designs is a member of the Old Town Commercial Association, an organization that anyone can join, Risper claims that the store is not within the boundaries of Old Town, and that this has blurred the lines of what exactly constitutes a part of Old Town.
Risper said that the neighborhood she lives in, Walnut neighborhood, located west of the center of Old Town, has also been called part of Old Town. However, she insists that it is not.
“[Old Town] is its own distinct place, and we are distinct,” Risper said. “I’ve been here for 20 years, and nobody thinks my neighborhood is part of Old Town.”
Eric Schertzing, the Ingham County treasurer, said that although there are boundaries for the OTCA, the boundaries for Old Town are not laid out anywhere.
“My more generic term that I use would be ‘Old Town neighborhood,’” Shertzing said. “I don’t think anyone outside the OTCA district should say they’re within the district, but I’m not doing anything to stop that. I don’t have any control to police those words.”
Rochelle Rizzi, the owner of Rizzi Designs, has been an OTCA board member for more than a decade and doesn’t see a problem with associating her business with Old Town.
“We’re very proud of our association with Old Town,” said Rizzi. “I don’t know where this issue is coming from.”
Part of the problem, according to some Lansing residents, is that they don’t want to be associated with the environment of Old Town.
“It has turned into one big party,” said Walnut neighborhood resident Mike Todd. “When you link us up to Old Town, you link us up with gay pride festivals, the Jazz Fest, Oktoberfest, etc. That’s good over there, but why would we want to bring all that up in the neighborhoods?”
Todd said that his neighborhood is mostly older citizens and children and that he doesn’t want the culture of Old Town to disturb the traditions of his neighborhood.
“We live here in a comfortably peaceful neighborhood,” Todd said. “And these people come in and act like we don’t exist. They want to come in, renovate, do all this stuff in our neighborhood and do it all with our money.”
According to Todd and Risper, there has been no discussion as to the boundaries and the residents of the surrounding neighborhoods have had no say in the matter.
However, Rizzi said that the OTCA board meetings are open to the public.
“Anyone is welcome to get on our agenda and voice their concerns at any time,” Rizzi said. “We’re all about building bridges and bettering the community.”