Is a gentrifying Old Town a good thing?

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By Cynthia Lee
Old Town Lansing Times Staff Reporter

When first entering Old Town, at first it can be considered an inviting neighborhood. After touring an area filled with booming businesses, clean streets, upscale townhouses you reach the end of the street, and it all comes to a screeching halt entering the poverty-stricken area of Lansing.

With newly high-end homes right next door to old low-income housing, Old Town is a prime example of gentrification. But is that a bad thing?

Lansing resident William Blanchard doesn’t think it is. “I think gentrification is a good thing,” said the teacher and painter.
“The people I know that live in the not-so-nice homes are mainly college students looking for cheap rent,” said Blanchard, adding that many of the residents in the more low-income areas around Old Town are mainly students, or elderly people who been there a long time.

“I haven’t heard much a about a mass amount of people not being able to live in their homes anymore,” says Blanchard. The main demographic of people who stay in Old Town are mainly young adults making most of the population, in addition to the remaining amount of retirees.

With gentrification being a trending topic in many cities, there is always more than what meets the eye. Executive Director Austin Ashley of Old Town Commercial Association, gave his thoughts on the subject matter.

“Gentrification is kinda tricky to manage. You have to respect the community and history which is already there, as well being forward thinking in a respectful manner,” said Ashley. “I think Old Town been successful at that, as well engaging the residents of the city, as well outskirts.”

When asked if he believes if Old Town is gentrifying the area he agrees that it is. “As we expand tend to pull affluent crowds, on the outskirts there are lower economic balance so we be sure to be respectful of that,” Ashley said.

Although Ashley sees Old Town’ development as gentrification, he believes they are not harming existing residents. Having balance in mind, and creating a community which allow residents of the lower-income side of the street feel a part of the community is what he feels what separate them from other types of gentrification.

Katalyst store owner, and Old Town resident Sarah Christiansen explain her view on gentrification in Old Town. “I feel Old Town has been going through this process for so long, that I feel all the development and redevelopment happening now is not from buying cheaper property any more,” said Christiansen.

Christiansen, who has been living in Old Town for three years, noticed many things in the area. She feels gentrification does not describe Old Town, unlike 15 to 20 years ago, when buildings were much cheaper. She adds that “I feel it has been a process, and not like boom happening over night,”


Local resident Ken Anderson who live in the lower-income part of the street, shared his point of view on gentrification in Old Town. “I lived here for about ten years, and it has always looked like this,” says Anderson. He adds “It been built up slowly, it use to be a bad area a long time ago”.

Michigan State University Associate director for the Multicultural Business Program Darrell King, gave his views on the topic. King explains that “Old Town was at one point, headed to gentrification before the recession.” He adds that “yet with the slow movement it’s not fully headed.”

King says that they developed the area because of the recession, it disrupted the gentrification affect of making it unaffordable for current residents. When asked if Old Town is in the direction of gentrification, he said it’s not. “It’s not in that direction because the population of Lansing can’t sustain it, after not fully recovering from the recession” he says.

To someone who is not a resident of Old Town, would perceive the area of gentrification. Yet what separates Old Town from many other developing areas, is that it has been a process over years. Most importantly it includes the whole community, and not making it difficult for everyone to be apart of the development of bringing up Old Town as well.





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