REO Town Development

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  • I know I'm late, but I think that a hotel that size is perfect for the Deluxe Inn site. I'm also happy with the site plan, but I agree that the rendering doesn't look like it relates to that site plan. I'd guess it's probably just an example of the look they'll be going for.

    Sorta related to this, I really hope to see the Grand Ave bridge over the river rebuilt someday. It would help with what I hope would be a redevelopment of the River Point neighborhood into a denser area and better connect downtown with REO Town. I could imagine a combination of low/mid rise residential and mixed use buildings filling up that area someday.

  • I think the likelihood of that being close to zero. There's nothing to really justify it, and it there would be all kinds of downsides. Maybe a pedestrian bridge to give pedestrians in that neighborhood an easier route - though that's even just me spitballing. But there is no way they are going to reconnect that as an auto route with Washington literally a block to west.

    Anyway, looking at the Form-Based Code the city looks like it is likely to adopt next year, the entire River Point/REO Town area north of South Street is zoned either MX-3 (District Mixed-Use Center) or DT-1 (Urban Edge).

    MX-3 (District Mixed-Use Center) is a mixed-use district where as far as residential is concerned, only multiple dwellings (apartment buildings and attached townhomes) are the permitted uses. MX-3 is along Washington Avenue and Malcolm X north of the bridge. MX-3 covers areas like Old Town, East Michigan, and a few areas along Cedar at the major intersections. Basically, it will slowly get rid of any single-family homes that may be along these streets.

    DT-1 (Urban Edge) is a mixed-use district where as far as residential is concerned, allows a mix of housing (single-family homes, duplexes, apartment buildings) as principal permitted uses. DT-1 covers the entire rest of REO Town east of Washington. As the name implies, is a zoning along the edges of downtown (south of Lenawaee, north of Ottawa, though almost exclusively west of the river, east of the river you have DT-2, which is a denser edge zoning). DT-1 is meant to keep the quiet character of historic residential neighborhoods. Specifically it reads "Urban Edge areas are intended to retain elements of the historic residential character such as short block lengths and existing front-yard setbacks."

    It sounds then that the intention is to largely keep Riverpoint what it is. The funny thing is that much of the area is already out of compliance with the existing zoning. The existing zoning for Grand, Platt, Hazel, etc...is the second highest residential zoning currently in the code. So, technically, you could already build denser housing in the district. Honestly, the only difference between the current zoning and what the Form-Based Code has planned for the area is that DT-1 is a mixed-use zoning, so you could build to-scale office space or service-based businesses and/or covert existing residential buildings to those uses. It actually doesn't allow retail usage, which is allowed in the neighborhod MX-3 zoning.

  • There's nothing to justify it if the River Point neighborhood remains what it is but I'm saying it shouldn't remain as it is. That neighborhood is now an odd mix of mostly mediocre and sub-par houses, I'd like to see it become a combination of low to mid rise mixed-use and apartment buildings and maybe some townhouses. If the area really took off, rebuilding the Hazel St bridge might even make sense, creating better continuity to the east and encouraging development towards Cedar. That'd be looking decades out though...

    I've thought about this neighborhood before, it always seemed to me that this area so close to downtown at the intersection of two main rivers should be more of a focal point. I feel like the most likely and practical (and my preffered) future for this area is a high density residential neighborhood. I really feel that something as simple as reconnecting Grand Ave across the river would do a lot to encourage redevelopment, especially if it's converted back to two way traffic.

  • I'm not super clear where we're referencing. Are we talking about the Cherry Hill neighborhood or the area east of REO Town? I mean both have a lot of sub-par housing but if it's Cherry Creek I feel like there is a chance to mix in higher density while returning some of the homes to their former glory; there really is some interesting architecture over there. Regardless I think both areas could use some help in terms of adequate housing.

    This isn't uncommon for City's. I use Columbus, Ohio for a lot of comparisons because there is a lot between our two cities, but you see this all the time there. They've got high end, high density towers with little historic districts here and there of modest mansions throughout their many well branded districts.

    Not to get too off topic, but I definitely think the way Lansing is embracing unique individual districts is definitely a good move that has proven successful in urban revitalization.

  • edited September 2017

    Lymon, let's read the name, again.... River Point...river point :)

    Anyway, I guess I just don't agree, at all. If anything, the original problem was all of the criss-crossing bridges and developing this area in the first place. It should have never been developed as most of it north of Elm is directly in the flood plain. Basically, the only land not in the flood plain in this area is north of South Street and south of Elm. The very first story of this neighborhood is the first residents of Lansing from New York getting to the sites they'd purchased in the fake "city" and literally finding the land where the rivers meet under water.

    The city was lucky to have gotten as much park land at the riverpoint as they have, but in my opinion, it should be even more. This area shouldn't be closed in; this unique spot should have even more unobstructed views of this natural geography. There is more than enough land on Washington and on the bluffs north of the river for development.

    There are quite a few other interesting areas downtown that deserve to be redeveloped that aren't in a flood plain.

  • Fair point haha! I was trying to figure it out based on descriptions since I'd never heard the name. Wasn't thinking geographically! I forget that area is literally at the point of the river. Just ignore me with that comment haha.

    In that case, I agree very much with Hood. That area could be considerably better and very little has any architectural significance, what might have has been butchered over the years. As you mention though MichMatters, the land isn't ideal and it is such a small portion of land really. Parks really would make more sense in the area.

    In general, not just Lansing, I think people need to forget about rebuilding in disaster prone areas. I've done plenty of work on project in floodplains and all I can think is that I'm building a building that will flood, it's just when. It's like designing a project someone plans to set on fire, it doesn't make sense.

    Another side comment, I'd always heard that story about Lansing and the first residents as well but recently heard it was false. I'd be curious as to the full story on it.

  • William and Jerry Ford explored the wilderness area in the winter of 1835, and by winter of the following year went back to Lansing, New York to peddle the fake town, which they claim already had 65 blocks waiting for development. There is a question of whether they knew William Townsend (also from New York) owned the land, but what they did know was that the land wasn't that great and most certainly that there the area hadn't even been cleared yet. 16 people initially bought lots during that first meeting with the scam brothers, the most prominent being Daniel Buck and Joseph E. North (who I believe North Cemetary and North Street are named after). This 16-member group was the group that found "Biddle City" underwater and that it was already owned by someone else. A few of them ended up purchasing their land twice and stayed.

    Now, this was a recollection from the 1930's. How much of it is true, we don't know, but I don't have much reason to doubt it. Whether these first settlers were actually scammed, or whether they simply regretted their purchase upon seeing the reality of it we don't know. But what's clear that those who bought land were pretty disappointed when they actually got here, as most of them returned home, and Lansing stayed a tiny town until it was designated the capital. What else we know is that the city then really started up in Old Town (Lower Town) and the higher north bank of REO Town (Upper Town) where it doesn't flood.

  • Any idea why the northern one was called Lower Town and the southern Upper Town? Old Town isn't necessarily lower in elevation (at least today).
  • Agreed. Seems there must be some truth and actually connects various stories I've heard and things I've read so I'll go with it.

  • edited September 2017

    Lower Town was downriver of Upper Town; it's mostly the direction of the river. Though the hear tof Lower Tower around Washington and Main is about 30 feet higher than the heart of Old Town (Grand River and Turner). In fact, the Turner Dodge house is only a few feet higher than the bluffs north of REO Town. I can tell you having cycled around the city the incline from the heart of REO Town up to the freeway really does feel as much of a climb as trying to get up the bluff in Old Town either on the river trail or on Turner.

    To put it in some perspective, the average water level under Washington Avenue is around 820 feet. Washington and Main/Malcolm X is at 856 feet, going up across the freeway to St. Joseph is almost 860 feet. On the street, Hazel and Washington is 833 feet, so it's still quite an incline from the base of REO Town. Old Town is lucky because the dam keeps the water even lower than through REO Town/Downtown, and Old Town also climbs more quickly north and east along Grand River.

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