Municipal Mondays: Lansing Gentrification via the Deluxe Inn

Here in Chicago, the Liberal Arts Colleges love to talk about gentrification. Tearing down old buildings, raising property taxes, a return to mixed-use development... it's a big issue when it comes to displacement, affordable housing, and urban renewal. In most contexts the term is used as a pejorative, so it's not surprising you won't hear the "G" word.

The Lansing State Journal has been covering the ongoing battle between the City Council and the Deluxe Inn located in Reo Town on Main and Washington. Today the LSJ devotes a full article to the issue.

It really is a no-brainer. During his election, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero kept pushing the idea of revitalizing downtown via the Cooley Law student population, and that meant one thing: cool cities. Loft apartments, trendy commercial district, and mid/high-rise condominiums. So it comes as no surprise that the land is desirable for all purposes:

Thomas M. Cooley Law School officials have expressed interest in building condominiums on the land occupied by the motel, Smith said, and some developers want it for apartments.
"Our goal is to have that property be a welcome mat to REO Town," [Mayor Virg] Bernero said. "We prefer not to build up the existing business, but we are ready, willing and able to do it. We aren't going to sit by and let things fester."

You'll be sure to hear more on this issue: the motel is affordable -- a rare commodity so close to downtown -- there are residents living in the motel who rely on the low rates, and it's a locally-owned business.

But being right off I-496 really does make the site a "welcome mat" to REO Town. It's just south of the downtown Washington strip, and just north of the ever-growing neighborhood which is quickly catching up to Old Town as an arts and entertainment district. Don't forget the site is also right on the river: a great spot for brand new condominiums.

The Grand Trunk Western Depot I blogged about earlier is just to the south of the motel.

I'm fairly certain the site will be closed and redeveloped. There's no doubt about it: if the city leadership want to attract homeowners and businesses to these neighborhoods, they need to get rid of "undesirable sites" -- red-tagged homes are in strong order to be torn down in the city. And with the Deluxe Inn receiving more than 1,600 calls to the Lansing Police Department in the past 6 years -- including 2 homicides -- the deck is pretty much stacked against it.

Take a look of this sattelite image of the Washington corrdidor from Kalamazoo to the rail tracks at the depot to get an idea of the prime spot its in:

Click Map to Enlarge


republic of m said...

I am not sure how I feel on Gentrification. On the one hand you have groups of people being forced out of (mostlikely) the only home they can afford. But on the other, what it can do for an area and other groups of people, such as the LGBT community is remarkable. Here in Metro Detroit all you have to do is look at Ferndale as a prime example. See this article, page down to the section called Gay Men towards the bottom.

quaker21 said...

Yep yep. We talk about the "gay index" a lot when dealing with gentrification and downtowns. In Chicago, Michigan Avenue, Lincoln Park, and now Lakeview and Andersonville were all/are now gay communities once upon a time.

And the latter 3 are some of Chicago's wealthiest and most attractive areas.

Same phenomenon with Old Town in Lansing. Granholm's "Cool Cities" program is based on Richard Florida's "The Rise of the Creative Class," which factors in the size of the LGBT community in creating hip cities and downtown districts.

The unfortunate thing is that its difficult to gauge the influence of gays/lesbians in this type of renewal. You can't go by census data, so its difficult to tell the population and community size. You could go by gay-owned businesses, but they have to self-identify.

It's a really nebulous thing.