The Power of Main Street! Part 4 of 4
Our last example of a Michigan Main Street community is Old Town Lansing. Old Town Lansing was named one of five of the 2011 Great American Main Street Program’s in the nation!
Old Town’s History ( from The ‘Main Street’ Difference….written by Kelly Larson, Main Street Architect, State Historic Preservation Office): About 20 years or so ago, the traditional commercial district known as “North Lansing” or “Old Town” was a scary place that most people avoided. Crime was high and buildings were boarded up and deteriorating. That changed in the 1990s when a few dedicated and hard-working people realize that nobody else was going to come in and fix Old Town so they were going to have to do it themselves. In 1996, the Old Town Commercial Association adopted the Main Street Four-Point Approach and began using historic preservation as one of their key economic development tools. A strong volunteer force started painting buildings, cleaning-up streets and parks and organizing new festivals to bring people into the district. Today, crime rates are among the lowest in the city and vacancy rates are less than 10 percent. Old Town is now filled with shops, art galleries, festivals, and residents.
Old Town Today: (Excerpt from 2010 Main Street Report …an official Main Street community since 2006): Old Town is known for its many festivals and events, but Old Town Scrapfest has redefined festivals, art and healthy competition in the capital city. Now in its second year, Scrapfest celebrates Old Town’s oldest business, which has specialized in scrap metal recycling for three generations. Fifteen teams of artists had one hour to collect up to 500 lbs of scrap and two weeks to build a masterpiece. Sculptures vary from eight foot eagles made of entirely silverware to a fully functioning chess board inviting festival-goers to challenge a friend. The event raises money for the Old Town Main Street program, but more importantly, the event has garnered national attention and re-secured Old Town’s position as the epicenter of arts in Lansing.
Old Town celebrated not one, but 13 new business to the community in 2009. While other neighborhoods struggled to hold on to businesses in the economic downturn, Old Town enjoyed a rush of new businesses. Many of the new businesses were retail and many more were creative service based, giving Old Town the title of having one of the highest concentration of creative businesses in Michigan.
Old Town’s Main Street statistics 2006-2010:
Total Volunteer Hours – 21,488
Net New Businesses – 27
Existing Business Expansions – 25
Net new FTE jobs – 195
Total Number of Facade Rehabilitation – 63
Building Rehab Investments – $4,518,700
Total Private and Public Investment 0 $5,646,339
Old Town’s success can be attributed to the utilization of the Main Street Four-Point Approach, great leadership and hundreds of volunteers who care about their district.
Over the past 30 years, the Main Street movement has transformed the way communities think about the revitalization and management of their downtown districts. Cities and towns across the nation have come to see that a prosperous, sustainable community is only as healthy as its core. The Michigan Main Street Center provides training and assistance to teach communities how to use the Main Street Four-Point Approach over a 5 year period to help build a strong, sustainable organization that will focus on the improvement and maintenance of Downtown for many years to come. Up to 3 communities are chosen through a competitive application process. Applications are due December 2nd. If you are interested in helping by completing a Letter of Support, please see the tab on the top of this page. Thank you!