Cedar Street Arts Center

edited December 2009 in Lansing
This has been in discussion since the Hollister administration, when the city had seriously considered putting up an arts center where the Stadium District now stands, but they could never find the money. I seems that the city has gotten a little further along, this time, but the economy is not anywhere near as healthy as in those times, so it may end up being a wash, again. Who knows? Anyways...

Micky Hirten: Cedar Street Arts Center on the way?

December 6, 2009

There's a plan developing for the long-discussed Lansing "Arts Center" that's not quite cooked, but certainly intriguing.

It would locate the Impression 5 Science Center, the BoarsHead Theater, the Lansing Art Gallery and similar organizations in a sprawling building at the northwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Cedar Street.

Local arts organizations have discussed a proposal and location with Lansing officials. There are, of course, money issues; who pays and how much?

The location is directly south of a new parking structure to be built by the city. This five-level structure will be bid sometime between April and June 2010 and will cost about $9 million, says Bob Johnson, director of Lansing's Planning and Neighborhood Development Office.

The city always seems to need more parking and there's not much on the east side of the Grand River.

But what's far more interesting in the architectural drawings of the parking structure is the contiguous building labeled "potential future space."

As detailed in the site plan, which the city released only after a Freedom of Information Act process, the structure would fill the parking lot adjacent to Cedar Street. The site plan shows three levels of floor space with 15-foot ceilings, making it suitable for specialty uses like museums or galleries or small theater. It could also be used as an extension to the Lansing Center, Johnson said. At this point, it won't be part of the parking structure bid.

"We're interested in the project and exploring all of the options," said Erik Larson, executive director of Impression 5. His museum's attendance is growing nicely (now attracting about 109,000 visitors a year.)

He notes that an arts center would be a large investment in the core downtown district and the location is outstanding.

"When you place a cultural arts center between two of the largest Lansing draws -- the Lansing Center and baseball stadium, there's a great deal of opportunity for critical mass."

With the completion of the new City Market to the north and with the potential offered by the new Accident Fund headquarters, an arts center could become the hub unifying all of these sites.

As Larson explains it, the challenge is finding entities that can work collaboratively and use the space "as 24/7 as possible."

This reflects the relationship between Impression 5 and the nearby Riverwalk Theatre. The museum is busy during the day; the theater at night.

Some of the planning for this arts center was conceived during better fiscal times. Budget woes make it difficult to project when - or whether - this project will fly.

Arts organizations will need to make significant financial contributions. It may require a community-wide capital campaign.

The fiscal health of one key participant, the BoarsHead Theater, is grim and an affiliation with Lansing Community College would address the challenge of finding a new home. The city owns the current building on Grand Avenue and plans to demolish it for, that's right, parking.

But things will improve. And speeding that improvement would be an arts center in the heart of Lansing.

What do you think? Write Mickey Hirten, Lansing State Journal, 120 E. Lenawee St., Lansing, MI 48919. For past columns, visit www.lsj.com/columnists.

I'm still trying to imagine anything at this corner. It seems so small, but every site looks smaller before a building is put up on it. Maybe I missed it, but will the center be fronting Michigan Avenue or Cedar Street. It sounds to me like the parking garage will fill the Cedar Street facade, mostly, with a square up front along Michigan Avenue and Cedar Street for the actual arts center.



  • Nice aerial picture. The Google Maps and Bing Map searches are really making it easier for sites like this to explain locations.

    Building the parking garage and possible arts center would be a big help, and will really move this area forward and closer to the realization of the Market Place development.
  • The other potentially cool thing would be to create some nice green space as part of the riverwalk after impression 5 moved.
  • I do think that's been the plan. The area of Museum Drive south of (and under) Michigan Avenue (and even parts up to Shiawassee), is squarely in the 100-year flood plain, and the city has been discussing since Hollister's administration to get the museums and theater out of this lowland. In all of the historic pictures your see of huge floods in Lansing's history, this location is always completely underwater.

    100-Year Flood Plain Map
  • This would be nice, but the news seems sort of premature. I would really like to see more on the proposed parking structure though, I didn't even know that that had become official.

    They're reasoning behind moving Impression 5 has very little to do with it being in a 100 year floodplain, building in 100 year floodplains is commonplace. I would be willing to bet that if they did get all that stuff off Museum Dr that they would soon redevelop it.
  • RE: all those building in the flood plain.

    I run by there alot and have noticed a line fairly high up on the Olds museum building I believe, that shows the waterline from an early 1900's flood.

    Speaking of the Olds museum, no mention in this article. Wonder what plans might come for that.
  • edited December 2009
    No, the city has been actively, for quite a few years now, trying to move people and businesses out of the 100-year floodplain. Nothing is going to be built on Museum Drive once things are moved unless it's filled in. It's why the City Market land (which already sits higher than anything on Museum Drive south of Michigan Avenue) had to be elevated, and why the MSP located their headquarters parking lot near the river and not the actual building. It's all culminated into a psuedo city policy that discourages folks from living in these areas, at the very least. It's why the city recently fought for federal grants to buy up and demolish residential properties along the Red Cedar River in the lowest parts of the floodplain. Museum Drive south of Michigan Avenue would have to be raised many feet -- of levees and seawalls would have to be built -- before they'd consider it ever being land worthy of development.


    It wasn't mentioned by name, but I'm sure the Olds Museum was included in the phrase "and similar organizations." It's always been the plan to bring every one of the instutitions on Museum Drive to a single location or campus. Earlier in the decade a concept was put foward to place all of them in a revitalization Ottawa Street Station, more recently, they were talking about moving them to the State Library & Museum.
  • I would love to see an arts center built to house all of these assets. The extra green space that could be created in the flood plain would be an added benefit.
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