With the help of Lansing, East Lansing and Lansing Township, Michigan Avenue is expecting to have a face lift and local business owners are looking forward to change.
In 2007, the three municipalities formed the Michigan Avenue Corridor Improvement Initiative to create improvements for Michigan Avenue. The initiative created a nine-member committee to revitalize Michigan Avenue. The committee is composed of three representatives from each of the local governments.
The representatives are nominated by each jurisdiction and consist of community members who have business interest in the corridor. Matt Brinkley, assistant director of Lansing Township, said that the committee is looking for street scape improvement, bicycle racks and lanes, trees, benches as some of the improvements under consideration.
The governments formed the committee in order to help streamline the improvements along the road. Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero stated at a press conference in 2007 that the committee is the first attempt to help these governments address issues that reach across municipal borders.
“For the first time, all three communities along Michigan Avenue will join forces to redevelop one of the major commercial corridors in our region,” said Bernero. “This will be a major shot in the arm for the local economy along East Michigan Avenue.”
Businesses along Michigan Avenue are looking forward to the changes in the future. Colleen Davis, owner of Gone Wired Café at 2021 E. Michigan Ave. said that there are plenty of issues that the committee could fix. She helped form the Avenue of Michigan Business Community, which hopes to bring businesses from west of Pennsylvania together to the border of East Lansing together to improve the appearance of Michigan Avenue.
Her list of improvements is long, but she says the top priority should be giving better access to bicyclist and pedestrians.
“In Chicago, they have ten thousand bike racks and bike lanes,” said Davis. “In Lansing, it’s not pedestrian friendly or bike friendly.”
Davis also said that along Michigan Avenue, there are 30 abandon buildings that need to be rezoned to give developers incentives to buy and build on those properties.
Her last suggestion was that the committee considers beautification of the corridor. She said it would help bring costumers into the area.
“There is no actual green space on the avenue,” said Davis “Greening the avenue would be really nice.”
Scott Harris, owner of Everybody Reads bookstore at 2019 E. Michigan Ave, said the committee would give the effort “continuity.”
“Everyone will be working in unison instead of conflict,” said Harris.
Businesses are hoping that the project will draw pedestrians, especially students, towards downtown Lansing. Some students like Jeff Proulx, a journalism junior at Michigan State University, do not consider Michigan Avenue as an attractive consumer venue. He hopes that the avenue would develop more nightlife, and entertainment for students under the drinking age.
“If I had a date that’s under twenty-one, where am I suppose to go?” said Proulx.
Harris said that even with creating new businesses, planning beautification, redesigning traffic patterns and redeveloping old buildings, the avenue has one major hurdle they need to jump over, or rather pass under.
“People are comfortable with coming into Lansing,” said Harris, “just not crossing past the (overpass). There’s something mystical about crossing over to the other side.”
But once costumers get pass that hurdle, businesses along Michigan Avenue feel they have a lot to offer.