By Ashley Weigel
Lansing Star Staff Writer
LANSING- Renovations to the Grand Trunk Western Depot and construction of the Lansing Board of Water and Light headquarters and power plant are nearly finished.
The depot at 1203 S. Washington Ave. has been part of Lansing for more than 200 years in the neighborhood south of downtown (REO Town). Although unused for over 20 years, it has played an important role in Lansing history. The depot was part of President Gerald Ford’s whistle-stop tour in 1976.
The Board of Water and Light has been building a new convergent power plant at the site to provide cleaner power.
The third installment of the project is a new headquarters for the utility that will house 180 employees.
The project cost about $182 million, with renovations to the depot costing about $2.7 million. Local contractors hired for the project earned $15 million in wages.
The three-piece project, started in July 2010, is an investment in the economic development for the REO Town neighborhood.
“This project could act as a catalyst of economic development in the REO Town neighborhood and the region,” said Stephen Serkaian, the Board of Water and Light director of communications, “…you have all the synergistic economic activity surrounding this small plot of land in REO Town that can expand in that area once we move in.”
The Board of Water and Light promoted economic development by hiring local contractors and to bring more customers to the local businesses of the REO Town neighborhood, Serkaian said. With 180 utility employees in the area, the hope is more people will be going to lunch and purchasing things from the businesses along the strip near the depot.
While the site will not be open to the public until July, Mayor Virg Bernero held his State of the City Address at the depot in January. Serkaian said among the 200 people in attendance, the Board of Water and Light received “only rave reviews” about the newly restored building. With the new construction and restoration of the depot nearly finished, REO Town may be on its way to becoming an up-and-running area of Lansing.