By Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
Old Town Lansing Times Staff Reporter
A project that would make Old Town Lansing greener and more accessible has been on hold for years. Just the fact there’s a project — albeit a paused one — is news to some.
According to the website of the Old Town Commercial Association, “the City of Lansing is planning to redevelop Old Town’s section of Washington Avenue… (the) redevelopment will allow for bike-friendly and pedestrian-friendly enhancements.”
The project will create bike lanes to Washington Avenue, add rain gardens and implement historic lighting that would match the ones on Grand River Avenue.
The project also seeks to add back-in angled parking.
However, Old Town Commercial Association Executive Director Austin Ashley said he is not aware of any updates to the project that was put on hold by the City of Lansing.
“Not sure of (any updates),” Ashley said. “I’ve only been in this position since June.”
Ashley said he plans to meet with city officials in the next weeks to talk more about the status of the project.
According to the Old Town Commercial Association website, local businesses and property stakeholders were also involved in the project as they helped the Old Town Commercial Association’s design committee generate a list of enhancements for the city to redevelop.
Redhead Design Studio Creative Director Jennifer Estill is part of the Old Town Commercial Association Board of Directors and sits in the design committee of the association as a representative of the aforementioned board.
Estill said the design committee of the Old Town Commercial Association has been in conversations with officials of the City of Lansing since 2013.
For her, the renovations to the intersection of Washington Avenue and Grand River Avenue mean a safer avenue and a more enjoyable community.
“Fewer lanes for more space for green areas, bike parking and metered parking,” Estill said.
The redevelopment would also eliminate the stoplight on the intersection, with hopes of becoming more eco-friendly.
“This could reduce emissions from cars waiting,” Estill said. “(We are looking) effective ways to move traffic instead of having people sit there in smog.”
Lansing’s Department of Public Service Transportation Engineer Andy Kilpatrick said the city is considering a roundabout to replace the stoplight.
But the project has had some delays.
“We have put (the project) off a couple of years because we have others roads that are worse off,” Kilpatrick said.
Kilpatrick said the previous weather patterns have contributed to the delay since the money that would have been allocated for the redevelopment had to be used in other communities.
The city has a budget of $450,000 for the redevelopment of the intersection and $595,000 for a broader redevelopment project.
The latter project will include Oakland Avenue and Grand River Avenue.
But the status of the project is unknown to many members of the community.
At least employees of two businesses on the intersection of Grand River and Washington Avenue admitted to not know anything about the project — the employees learned about the project when asked about it.
Cecilia Garcia, the administrative assistant for the Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club, said she was not aware of the project — the chapter’s office is located at 109 E Grand River Ave., just one building away from the intersection.
Garcia noted that sometimes she has to close the door of her office since the fumes of the trucks waiting for the stoplight to change are unbearable.
Kilpatrick said the redevelopment is expected to start by 2016.