Lansing Board of Water & Light

edited January 2016 in Lansing
Decided to start a new thread since the LBWL is involved in a lot of different developments around the region. In the latest news on the utility, they seem to be doing a 180 on the plans for the Eckert Station, which will go offline in a few years. It's always been implied that the station would be torn down, because of how hard it would be to reuse it and given how polluted the site is. Now, the general manager himself is talking about going in the direction of repurposing:
LANSING - The Eckert Power Plant — arguably the capital city's most iconic building, besides the Capitol itself — could get repurposed by a developer into one of the most dynamic, one-of-a-kind mixed-use projects in the state.

Board of Water & Light officials told the Lansing State Journal this week that the coal-burning Eckert Power Plant — known for its triple smokestacks nicknamed Winkin', Blinkin' and Nod — could be revitalized after it goes offline, which is expected to happen by 2020.

"We've believe it's more valuable standing to a developer," said BWL General Manager Dick Peffley, who has nearly 40 years of experience with the city-owned utility. "Even the stacks could play a part of that."

Peffley said he's already received interest from Bob Trezise, the Lansing's Economic Area Partnership's president and CEO, about forming a plan to market the property. Peffley went as far Tuesday night as to say Trezise is "drooling" to market the facility, which sits on the banks of the Grand River.

Not only is the general manager pushing this, but the article says that even the board hasn't seen demolition as a forgone conclusion. I'm so glad we have people with vision in this area. A lot of smaller places don't get as ambitious as this region does, even if we overshoot and fail every once in awhile. I think it's hard to make the argument that it would be impossible to reuse after what they were able to do with the Eckert.


  • I'm happy to hear about possible reuse but this doesn't really surprise me, it would be expensive and difficult to tear down the Eckert Plant, especially its smokestacks. It certainly won't be an easy site to reuse but the possibilities are so wide open it's hard to even hone in on any one thing the site should be transformed into. The old 1920's era building should obviously be preserved and restored, while the larger part of the building can be reconfigured and reskinned to be anything. I'm really interested to see if they find a creative way to reuse the smokestacks or if they will only serve as decoration. Hopefully this one won't sit as long as the Ottawa Plant did, but I have a feeling any serious proposals are a long ways off.
  • Wow! I'm so happy to hear this
  • On my walk yesterday we took the "back way" to Moorse Park down S. Washington to Island Ave and down the stairs by the pool. It's a bit scruffy but it is a nice neighborhood with some really big old houses. I was noting how monumental the power plant is and how it dominates and fills the view of any window facing that direction. I was also thinking what it might be like if it were not there. A forested island with canals and rapids would be nice.
    While going to MSU I lived right across the street from Moorse Park School and saw the towers rise one ring at a time. The scale of the stacks was so overwhelming it was stunning for the neighborhoods all around. The smoke stacks they replaced were very much smaller and shorter and poured pollution right down on the neighborhood when the wind blow from the north. However they did not fill the sky because they were barley above the tree line.
    Now that they are talking about reusing the buildings I try to think what the area would look like without all the power rigs and poles, pollution collection silos, cooling towers,and coal yards, and it basically a pretty nice really big building that could accommodate a lot of people, for a lot of different uses.
  • I've always figured that if urban living in Lansing ever really catches on the Moores park neighborhood will be one of the premier old neighborhoods in the city. I'm pretty sure it was an upper middle class neighborhood in it's day, many of the houses are step above what's found in other similarly aged neighborhoods in Lansing. The housing quality, proximity to Downtown/REO Town and Moores Park itself should position this area to do well, regardless of the Eckert Plants fate.
  • Another REOtown neighborhood that is kind of forgotten, but full of big one time grand houses is what they now call "River Point". There are several houses back there that look like they may be among the oldest in Lansing. The area is very industrial but most of that is blocked by huge trees so Grand Ave. there feels very pleasant to walk down. The neighborhood sits high on "the banks of the Red Cedar"

    The Moores Park area is full of potential,I like that area, affordable really nice housing, on the River Trail etc. The first thing the city could do to help a revival of that neighborhood is to rebuild the streets. Barnes Ave is so bad in places only pot holes and pot hole patches cover the surface of the whole street.
  • Moores park definitely has a lot going for it in terms of housing stock, scale, trees, river trail and park access. What it seems to lack is ANY retail within walking distance. MLK, Mt. Hope and Washington are all kind of dead zones through there. Washington/REO town seems most viable to build off of.

    It would be great if there were a decent sized grocery store in that Baker/Washington area. I could see something more upscale working there given the proximity to Moores park, Moores river drive, potter park south neighborhood, the endless population to the south, easy access to 496..... and if they had ready-made lunch food they could even get dowtown and BWL workers.
  • There are two existing building that could fit a fairly large supermarket. The building right next to the rail road tracks across from the BWL plants has been rehabilitated and has a big parking lot. The other down the street in the block between Hazel and Elm is the former Lenox heating company building. It seemed like the key shop was going to move in at one point. Now however it looks empty. It is a big building with parking on the side and a large lot out back. On Baker Street there would be plenty of room to build a new building, the best stop would be the church overflow lot [do they ever use that lot anymore] on the south side near Washington. I think a market in REOtown would really help make a true urban village living neighborhood here.
  • edited February 2016
    BWL announced this afternoon the building of a substation in REO Town, but it sounds like quite a bit more than that, fortunately. Unfortunately, it will require them moving Scott Gardens, which is an awesome oasis, particularly the undeveloped/natural river bluff at this location. Anyway, waiting to see some renderings to visual this. From the LSJ:
    LANSING - The Lansing Board of Water & Light announced plans today for a $26 million central substation in REO Town.

    The substation will be located on a 4-acre portion of Scott Park at the southwest corner of South Washington Avenue and West Malcolm X Street. The plan calls for several area recreational improvements that will "create a link between downtown Lansing and REO Town," officials said.

    Those include viewing and fishing platforms along the Grand River, a walkway from Washington Avenue to Townsend Street, loop trails connecting the existing pedestrian system to proposed walkways, and a new pathway from Capital Avenue to Cooley Gardens, officials said. It will also include a new staircase connecting the river trail to Washington Avenue and wayfinding signs on Malcolm X Street, Washington Avenue and Townsend Street, they said. The plan will replace existing parking lots in poor condition and include new landscaping for the Scott Park.

    "A regular substation was not going to do it," Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero said. "This is in fact a key between downtown and REO Town."

    Proposed exterior building design features include an image of an Oldsmobile visible from Malcolm X Street, and large automobile gears and pillars reading "REO Town" visible from Washington Avenue.

    A few pictures I've taken of the area over the years:

    Cooley Gardens by NewCityOne, on Flickr

    Cooley Gardens by NewCityOne, on Flickr

    Cooley Sunken Gardens by NewCityOne, on Flickr

    Oldsmobile Headquarters from Cooley Gardens by NewCityOne, on Flickr

    The BWL's actual release also hints that they'll demolish the historic Scott House on site, which they make sure to say is of "no historical value". lol Anyway, it sounds like they will take out the part of the site nearest Washington and Malcolm X, which should leave most of Cooley Gardens (including the Cooley-Haze House, which is the Michigan Women's Historical Center) untouched save for the river frontage. It sounds like they are going to stretch a trail along the curve of the river bluff from the Washington Avenue bridge west to Townsend. I'm excited to see how they rework the oversized parking and driveway area on site.
  • Here are the renderings and site plan from the LSJ article:





    I'm not really sure how to feel about this proposal, at first thought taking away park space and razing an old house to put an electrical sub station on main corner in the central city doesn't seem like a great idea. However, this park is so cut off and under used seeing any thing here would be nice. If, along with building the sub station they make some substantial improvements to the park this could have a pretty positive effect, maybe Cooley Gardens will finally get some much needed love. As a side note there was mention in the article about possibly moving the Scott House rather than demolishing it.
  • @hood I think your gut instinct is right. We shouldn't be putting electrical sub stations on main corners in a central city. They should be tucked away and out of sight, as they have no pedestrian use or foot traffic, are often loud and potentially dirty.

    The building looks very heavy, sort of fortress-like. It takes a corner that is easy for drivers and pedestrians to see around and puts up a sharp wall in the way. More costly but not changing the layout of the park redesign, there could be a ground-floor element that has windows and some pedestrian use.

    I don't think this project should move forward until the building design include a small indoors gathering area with benches and tables. The building could be opened only during park hours, but would be a nice place to put bathrooms, picnic area, and plaques about what to look for in the park.
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