The town of Mason, with its unique location and historical town square, attracts new residents for a variety of reasons.
As of 2016, Mason’s population was estimated to be 8,395 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The population grew 1.7 percent since the last Census in 2010. Other than its unique location and downtown area, City Administrator Deborah Stuart believes it is the focus on community that brings new residents to Mason.
“I think the folks that come to Mason are really looking for that small town feel and a connection to their community,” said Stuart.
In the past decade alone, nearly 700 housing units have been added to the housing inventory, according to the city of Mason’s website.
“One of things that I think Mason does better than a lot of other communities is that the community is committed to success. So, when a new business opens a lot of community members make an effort to support that business,” Stuart said. “Or, when there’s an event downtown, a lot of that is volunteer driven. It’s not organizationally driven. And so, there’s a real ability to be able to connect to the community which I think a lot of people are looking for now.”
Although Mason has seen an increase in population in the last few years, Stuart hopes to see a steady growth.
“I wouldn’t want to see a dramatic growth in population because that’s hard to manage. I think it’ll be a pretty steady growth. I think as we build new homes, they’ll be filled up. A lot of our current residential neighborhoods that have a few vacant lots are getting less and less and are starting to get built out. I envision that there’ll probably be some single-family neighborhoods being developed in the next few years,” Stuart said.
Other than the community-centric atmosphere, some residents may be attracted to Mason for its location, according to Mayor Russ Whipple.
“It’s a safe community overall for adults, kids and what not. We also have a unique location, kind of right in between Jackson and Lansing, close to MSU. It’s relatively inexpensive to live here,” said Whipple.
“Somebody might move here just because this is the perfect location for where they work but they don’t want to live in Lansing. Someone might move here because they have a wife who works in Lansing and a husband who works in Jackson or that direction.”
The average commute time for commuters in Mason is 21.4 minutes, compared to the national average of 25.4 minutes, according to an Average Commute Times map by WNYC. For a town with a location like Mason, it is not uncommon that most of the residents would be commuters, according to Rex LaMore, Director of the Michigan State University Center for Community & Economic Development.
“It makes it a possible commuter town where people can live there and work somewhere else. It has access to a larger metropolitan employment base and that’s certainly an advantage as opposed to something in isolated northern Michigan which a commute would not be reasonable,” said LaMore.
“It’s not that uncommon to see that outlying residential pattern around a central employment area,” LaMore said. “The greater Lansing area, MSU campus, and the Lansing state government to have folks commute in from town 20 miles away. That’s usually about the norm.”
For many residents new and old, a big draw of the town is Mason’s historical town square, according to resident Kayla Marie Durocher who made the move to Mason about six months ago.
“It’s not right in the city and it’s not too far out either. So, it’s the perfect little area. But, I do think a big part of it is the downtown. Kids from MSU come to Bad Brewing all the time for trivia nights and things like that. So, I think this area is a big draw for the community. Also, there’s apartments above most of the stores so it’s a really cool little downtown area.”
Despite Mason being a small town, the location is great, even for someone who prefers the city, Durocher said.
“I definitely would love to live in the city, but I love that we’re able to drive 20 minutes down the road and there’s Lansing. And the same thing with Detroit, Detroit is obviously a further drive but it’s not too bad. I think that it does make it better to live here because it’s so close to the city. And I’ve actually told so many people, ‘Yeah, it’s such a great place to be, I can kind of just relax and driving isn’t bad, traffic isn’t bad,’” Durocher said. “So yeah, I think it does kind of balance it out for me.”
“I’m very comfortable here and I never feel unsafe. So, I don’t really know if there is anything I would change,” said Durocher.