Nearby neighborhoods are unhappy with being included in Old
Town and are disputing the community’s borders.
“There is no border,” said Rina Risper the publisher and owner of the Lansing based
newspaper The New Citizens Press. Risper is a resident of the Walnut neighborhood, and said that her area hasn’t been a part of Old Town since she bought her house in 1989.
“We have never been a part of Old Town,” she explained. “They are only interested in businesses and not the community. You can clearly see where Old Town ends when you’re down there. This is all a result of Ingham County and Eric Schertzing. They haven’t asked us what we wanted.” She explained that there are only boundaries when they want them, and right now they want them for marketing interests only.
Ingham County Treasurer and Chairman of the Ingham County Land Bank, Eric Schertzing, explained during an earlier interview that his main responsibility and goal with the Land Bank is to help economic development throughout the county. The Old Town Commercial Association, the business district of the community, has a border, Schertzing explained. But in beyond that area there are a number of
neighborhood organizations that overlap.
“Some people want to identify [an area] by the neighborhood organization,” Schertzing
said. “Sometimes that is driven by the subdivisionplaque built way back when, but usually they’re just boundaries somebody created. I have an area about a mile west from there and I think about that as the Old Town area. Some people want it to be called the Walnut neighborhood, but nobody has any idea. There’s a Walnut Street, but
what does that mean? A lot more people know where Old Town is.”
Louise Gradwohl, an Old Town Commercial Association employee said that the surrounding areas are serviced by the OTCA.
“Our mission of community empowerment and revitalization is not commercial property specific and any economic growth that can be found in Old Town, Downtown or otherwise has a direct impact on residential property values, quality of life, job opportunities, civic engagement opportunities, access to arts & culture and fresh fruits & vegetables, etc,” Gradwohl said.
Risper also said she is concerned with the relationship between Rizzi Design and Ingham County. Risper said that Rizzi Design was hired by Ingham County for marketing purposes. Then Rizzi bought 1141 N. Pine St., now known as Old Town
“They just skipped over eight blocks,” Risper said. “They’re trying to
make a speedway to the School for the Blind.”
In the past Ingham County has controlled the sales of properties to ensure that the buyer will be a positive fit for the community, as is the case with a current restaurant property in Williamston. Schertzing explained that the sale of Old Town Manor was a similar situation.
“The Rizzi Design building was purchased by the Land Bank from the Lansing Housing Commission,” Schertzing explained. “We renovated the property
and came across Rizzi as a buyer near the end of the renovation.” Schertzing also added that the Land Bank had worked at trying to reach a deal with businesses other than Rizzi Design.
Old Town Manor is on the School for the Blind property and used to house the school’s superintendent. Schertzing sees the site as an area with opportunity to grow.
Schertzing explained that the biggest problem with the School for the Blind is that the entire property of more than 12 acres is under split-ownership.
“The School for the Blind needs an overall plan that would come from one owner,” Schertzing said. “The site is in a great location to build upon the strength of Old Town. I would link Old Town and the School for the Blind site along West Grand River.”
Gradwohl also said that she sees the School for the Blind as a positive for the Old Town Community as well.
“The School for the Blind is a wonderful asset to the Lansing area and a important part of North Lansing heritage,” said Gradwohl. “Though there has been no actual action on linking the commercial corridor of Old Town with the School for the Blind Campus, OTCA continues to provide support to the Neighborhood Empowerment Center, Ingham County Land Bank and Rizzi Designs, three of the property’s initial tenants. These organizations receive member business services such as access to the business assistance team and many other business support programs, market support, an opportunity to sit on the board of directors and committees, etc.”
The Greater Lansing Housing Commission, which owns the Neighborhood Empowerment Center, is not an economic development entity, Schertzing added. They are facing mortgage foreclosure on their 3 buildings and we’ll have to see how that turns out, he added.