Lansing History

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  • The malling of Washington Ave was probably the worst thing to happen to downtown, followed by the Capitol Complex. It destroyed the main throughfare, destroyed a few of the nicest commercial blocks and cost a lot of money in the process. I'll never understand what made them think that was a good idea, even when really trying to understand the thinking at the time. I'm still angry that they allowed LCC to buy their Washington Ave right of way, permanently disconnecting Downtown and Old Town.
  • It blows my mind that pedestrian malls on main streets became the urban planning trend in the 1960's. Pedestrian malls can work...when there are people living very close by to them. Yet, urban planners were pushing pedestrian malls at the exact same time the people (residents and businesses) were emptying out of the cores of cities. They honestly must have thought that people were going to drive down to these and shop like the new enclosed suburban malls. lol The worst of the worst was enclosing North Washington. The crazy thing is that when the few retail businesses that probably existed packed up an moved they kept it enclosed for years despite their being nowhere to shop or eat along it. By the time they opened it back up, Kositcheks and the art store were basically the only retail establishments left. That's along three whole blocks of a street. Glad they corrected it, but we lost so much time and opportunity to redevelop along that stretch of the street.

    I'd love to see LCC or someone developed mixed use along the 300 north block, multiple projects with ground floor retail and maybe student apartments and maybe very minimal office space.
  • Yeah, malls can be great when they replace short sections of side streets in very densely populated areas, but probably never when cutting off a main throughfare like Washington, let alone in 1960's Lansing.

    Even now, years after removing the malls there's been no new retail or development proposed for North Washington. I hope to see all three of the buildings on the east side of the 200 block get replaced with something taller and accommodating mixed use. LCC owns both sides of the 300 block besides the MEDC building and I think seeing them build something in the near future on one of the sites is pretty realistic. Whether or not it will be mixed use is a big question, but maybe if we're really lucky they'll build some dorms/apartments with ground floor retail.
  • The city website has an old photo of the current city hall being constructed in 1957:

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    The old city hall is to the left, and the city hall annex and post office is to the right.
  • It look like at this point they could have saved the old next to the new. They did not do it that way back then. it was out with the old. Too bad so many people felt that way such a beautiful example of civic architecture in the Romanesque style. Many Mid-western cities had this style of municipal buildings schools and churches. It was the fashion in the last part of the 19th century. It was built to last. There are a few examples of the era that escaped the wrecker's ball in Lansing like the United Methodist Church on Capital Ave. It is just another example of how we should really thinks about what we tear down and what is going to replace the old.
  • edited September 2015
    The LSJ released some file photos and did a story on Michigan Avenue between the river and the train tracks, downtown.

    1978 or 79

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    1982

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    500 block in 1982

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    1986

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    1987

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    600 block in 1987

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    500 block (Oldsmobile Park block) 1992

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    Kind of wish they'd gotten more of the southside of the 500 block, particularly of the tallish building at the southwest corner of Larch and Michigan.
  • Being a young gay man out and about at the time I can remember this area very well. I don't know what all went on in the bookstores and movie houses but we were having a disco blast in Trammpp's. There was a sign at the door that you needed seven ID's to enter, a really great drag queen named Syn Copper was at the door for a long time and if she did not like the looks of you you did not get in. Safety was a concern in those days. Once inside it was quite a scene packed with all kinds of people dancing to really good music not really the main stream disco music, they always had a deeper funk and soul beat. It was really a fun place but from the outside you would never know what was going on behind those fake stones. I can remember running across wide Michigan Ave in the frozen winters snow blowing so hard you could hardly see the Capital no one else anywhere, passing through the door and steam from body heat would bellow out the door from all the people inside dancing. In those days it was one of the few places you could be open and find other gay folks it was fun!
  • edited September 2015
    Wow that's quite the story. From looking at the pictures alone I would have thought that Trammpp's was out of business when they took those pictures, but I guess it was just trying to not draw any unwanted attention.
  • I moved out east in '81 so I am not sure but I think that that bar was open until they bought it out to make room for the baseball stadium. That area was not all "sin strip" filled with men in overcoats doing sinful things. My mates and I were early urban pioneers and moved into a big place on Eureka Street,there were hookers there but no one ever bothered us, not many MSU students lived in downtown Lansing in those days. On hot summer days we would cut class {I always went summer term} and go down to Famous Taco for real Mexican food and big Margarita's. It was really dark and cool in there and so nice on a hot day, the food was really good and the people there were really nice. I don't remember the 80's facade but Joe Cavello's was the "gay bar" before Trammps opened in '76. That place had a old school bar look with big leather booths, pool table,pinball and a great jukebox
    Even though I guess I could have, I never went into the X rated businesses in that strip and out side of the signs I never saw anything or anyone on the street really that lived up to the reputation of a wild place that was unsafe. those businesses were allowed in a zoned adult entertainment area as part of the liberal idea of that freedom of press and expression applied to sexual expression like nude dancing, and pornography. It was a way to zone or have control of were that type of now legal business could be. It may have been a good idea but most "sin strips" or "combat zones" led to the decline of the neighborhoods around them. From today's prospective it seems pretty crazy to have had it right on Michigan Ave. in front of the State Capital, but people really did not care about that part of downtown at the time and most would not be caught dead on those blocks. I think Clara's was the beginning of turning the tide for that area.
  • My family didn't move here until 1990, but I'm surprised I have absolutely no memory of this block downtown prior to the stadium, and really really only lived a few blocks to the north. I do remember when they were building the stadium, though.

    What I do remember from the early 90's was how rough East Shiawassee Street was (east of Larch), and I hear it was practically a warezone back during the crack epidemic in the 80's. I've heard stories that the LDP even put up temporary concrete barriers on one end of the street for a time to control the drug trade along the street and Oak Park, though, I'm not sure if that's true. Even as things had already begun to get better in the early 90's were weren't allowed up at the park alone.

    The funny thing is that while the area is still pretty poor, and while I don't doubt there are still drugs, there is very rarely violent crime up that way, anymore, and I can't even remember the last time there was a murder in this little neighborhood. By the 00's, I'd take my brother up there to play basketball in the park, and I'd sometimes go upon the hill in the park to get a little-known view of downtown. I've never felt unsafe up that way in recent year. It's a really good example of how a neighborhood doesn't necessarily have to be gentified for the area to get better. Sometimes, it takes something as simple as forming a neighborhood association (there is one or two up that way depending on which side of Shiawassee you live on, I believe) to get the city's attention. Another big reason the neighborhood changed was the growth of the Neogen Corporation, which is headquartered in the old Oak Park School on the north end of the neighborhood. They bought up a few homes in the neighborhood and fixed them up.
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