Lansing: Cities within a city

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By Tyler Austin
Listen Up, Lansing Staff Reporter

Lansing, like many cities is separated into several sections; Northwest, South, West and East are usually how people go about dividing it. Within each of those sections are all kinds of neighborhoods and attractions, all of which differ from one another quite a bit.

Populations of city of Lansing sections. Data from Click to enlarge.

Populations of city of Lansing sections. Data from Click to enlarge.

The neighborhoods are all very unique and offer very different pieces of the overall culture that is Lansing, according to Chris Tarpoff of the Lansing visitor’s bureau. Old Town is known for its variety of restaurants and art galleries while the downtown area is known for its tall buildings and local shops. Each area offers a specific niche allowing people to truly experience the lifestyles of the city and its residents.

However, they may differ a bit too much.

According to, west Lansing is wealthy with a median household income of nearly $50,000, while south Lansing averages nearly $10,000 less and the city’s downtown barely breaks the $35,000 mark.

They are so different in fact, that the communities hardly ever intersect. Even though the neighborhoods are open and welcoming with all kinds of unique tourist options they are all still very separated, according to Michigan State University landscape architectural professor Paul Nieratko, who also grew up in Lansing.

The neighborhoods are run more like small towns rather than pieces to the same city, Nieratko said.

The neighborhoods all have “little clusters of businesses” right in the core of them. The common stores (grocery stores, bakeries, clothing shops) are all set up right next to each other with the more suburban areas surrounding them. This allows for residents of the different neighborhoods/sections to live comfortably without the need to venture out too much, Nieratko said.

But why is that? How is it that a city can become so divided?

“We’ve got to look at the history,” says Raymond Jussaume, chair of the sociology department at Michigan State University. “Many times separation comes with a history … Lansing used to have a history with the automotive industry.”

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Lansing Family’s median household income. Data from Click to enlarge.

According to Jussaume, one possible for the separation is that Lansing once was filled with industrial plants. They existed all over Lansing and had their own communities of people; workers, families of the workers, etc. Once the plants were gone, the people and their communities that were built stayed behind.

This theory can be backed up with other forms of separation between the neighborhoods. They all have varying socioeconomic statuses. This is likely due to the condition of the neighborhoods and its workers during the industrial period.

With an overall population of about 114,000 Lansing is quite the city with quite a bit of diversity.

And the neighborhoods are a definite reflection of that.

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