The Old Town Commercial Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to the revitalization of Lansing’s Old Town through socioeconomic development, historic preservation, business recruitment and community outreach. Rich and vibrant streetscapes provide a gateway to our livable, walkable and family-friendly community. Residents of Old Town and surrounding neighborhoods are invested and engaged in the success of the Old Town community.
To maintain a vibrant business community in Lansing’s historic Old Town district by providing services and opportunities that foster economic growth and community engagement.
Old Town Lansing is the cultural and creative district of Lansing. Our community offers unique experiences through special events, incredible people, eclectic shops and a rich history.
Our buildings are beautifully restored for residents and businesses of all backgrounds; our infrastructure is well maintained by sustainable resources.
Our diverse mix of destination retail, creative and entertainment businesses offers products and services that are high in quality and one of a kind to the Old Town district.
We continue to value our heritage, volunteers and stakeholders who dedicate their resources to make Old Town a destination.
What we do
- Write grants to provide and leverage funding and building rehabilitation
- Coordinate clean-up efforts
- Provide beautification efforts, including trash cans, flowers, hanging baskets and more
- Recruit and retain businesses that compliment the area and existing businesses
- Continue to make Old Town a walking and biking-friendly district
- Publish monthly printed and online newsletters, as well as populate social networking sites
- Maintain www.iloveoldtown.org which features all the
Old Town businesses, as well as a comprehensive calendar
- Conduct regular media interviews and obtain media coverage for Old Town happenings
- Draw thousands to the area with a diverse offering of special events and festivals
- Host grand openings and ribbon cuttings for new businesses
- Facilitate group advertising opportunities
- Market and brand our unique neighborhood with banners, flowers and advertising
- Create directories, maps and kiosks featuring member businesses
- Work with city officials to maintain roads, improve sidewalks and install historic street lighting
- Seek out funding to bring new and exciting features to the area including bike racks, playground equipment, sculptures, murals, creative signs and more
- Publish the Old Town Newsletter
- Host free monthly Wake Up Old Town! networking events
- Serve as an information resource center for businesses, residents and visitors
- Provide internship opportunities
- Provide historic walking tours
- Facilitate visitation and educational programs with local schools
As in any small town, people who live and work in Old Town take pride in the history lessons their hometown offers them. Filled with hope and determination, sadness and success, the tale of Old Town’s ancestors is more intriguing each time it is revisited.
A surveying crew moving westward across Michigan in 1825 stopped along the Grand River Indian Trail at the apex of the Grand River. Their mission was to plot and chart land that would someday be known as Old Town. Eleven years later New York land speculators James Seymour and Jacob Cooley purchased the land from the federal government. In 1842, the area was officially named Lansing Township. Around the same time, John Burchard of Mason acquired a section of land from James Seymour. Burchard became the first residential settler in the Lansing area.
Burchard and his family settled into a small cabin along the Indian Trail on the corner of Cesar E. Chavez Avenue (formerly Grand River Avenue) and Center Street – in close proximity to where the former Arctic Corner stands today.
The Grand River’s first dam was built nearby in 1843 and was used to power the area’s first sawmill. Tragically, John Burchard drowned a year later, attempting to fix the dam.
Later that same year, Joab Page, his son and three daughters moved into the Burchard cabin. An addition was made to the home and it was used as a tavern for weary travelers. A Methodist minister conducted Lansing’s first church service in the living quarters of the cabin in 1845. The Page cabin also served as Lansing’s meeting hall and township court.
As the settlement of Lansing grew, James Seymour began to make improvements on his investment property. He financed the construction of the first wooden bridge across the Grand River. It connected the Grand River Indian Trail (present day Cesar E. Chavez Avenue) and the two forking paths on either side. Lansing’s first school was also built in the Old Town area, at the southeast corner of Franklin Avenue (Cesar E. Chavez Ave.) and Cedar Street (the site of the former Temple Club). The school also provided a meeting space for church congregations.
Seymour lobbied for the construction of the new State Capitol Building to be located within his holdings in the Old Town area. But in 1847, Governor William Greenly selected a site approximately two miles from Lansing’s original Old Town settlement. Seymour recovered quickly from the loss with new plans for the development of North Lansing – now known as Old Town. Realizing that traveling legislators would need temporary housing during their frequent trips to the capitol, Seymour began construction on a hotel at the corner of Franklin Avenue and Center Street. In January of 1848, The Seymour House opened for business in time for the first legislature session.
Over the next 150 years, Old Town saw many changes. Growth brought prosperity and a great blue-collar community. Visitors to Old Town often saw and heard “North Lansing against the World.” But, soon the boom came to an end. By the latter part of the twentieth century, Old Town had become a fragmented shell of the bustling area it once was. Buildings were abandoned or burned out. People lost interest in local downtowns across the country, and Old Town was no exception.
Some very dedicated people, including the late Robert Busby, decided that the decay of Old Town was unacceptable. For the last 30 years, these “urban pioneers” have been working hard to revitalize Old Town to make it a better place to live, work, and shop. In 1996, the Main Street program was established in Old Town. Since then, crime rates have fallen to the lowest in the city, building vacancy has dropped from 90 percent to less than 10 percent, and Old Town is proud to be a home to some of the finest art and entertainment venues in mid-Michigan. In 2006, Old Town was named a Michigan Main Street program area under Governor Granholm’s Cool Cities Initiative; it continues to operate under Main Street’s four point approach.
Together with several other partners, such as the Michigan Institute for Contemporary Arts (MICA) formerly the Old Town Business and Art Development Association (OTBADA), the City of Lansing, the Principal Shopping District (PSD)/Downtown Lansing, Inc., the Turner-Dodge House and others, Old Town has become a thriving environment of art, festivals, boutiques and creative businesses and residents dedicated to the revitalization of this historic district.
Through hard work and determination, Old Town has prospered and grown into one of the finest areas in mid-Michigan. Old Town may not have reached its full potential yet, but thanks to the support of the community, it is on its way.
Michigan Mainstreet / Mainstreet USA
Concerned about continuing threats to commercial architecture on Main Streets and aware of the need to stimulate economic activity in small-city downtowns, the National Trust for Historic Preservation launched community demonstration projects (1977-1980) that resulted in the creation of the Main
Street Four-Point Approach® and establishment of the National Main Street Center in Washington, D.C.
Main Street America® is a national program, run by the National Main Street Center, that has spanned three decades and taken root in more than 2,000 communities – a movement that has spurred $49 billion in reinvestment in traditional commercial districts, generated an average of $27 locally for each
public dollar invested, led to a net gain of 94,176 new businesses, 417,919 new jobs, and 214,263 building rehabilitations, galvanized thousands of volunteers, and changed the way governments, planners, and developers view reservation.
What is Michigan Main Street?
Michigan Main Street provides technical assistance for communities desiring to develop their own local Main Street program by utilizing the Main Street Approach™ – a common-sense approach to tackling the complex issues of revitalization by capitalizing on downtown’s history and identifying the unique assets of the community itself.
What is the Main Street Approach?
The Main Street Approach is established by the National Main Street Center. It consists of three tightly integrated components: community visioning and marketing understanding (the inputs), transformation strategies (implemented using the Four Points), and implementation and measurement (the outcomes).
The vision is developed through a community driven visioning process that brings stakeholders from all sectors together, inviting them to be proactive participants in the revitalization process. Visioning can provide a foundation for outlining the community’s identity, expectations, and ideals while confirming real and perceived perceptions, needs, and opportunities. Market understanding is developed through a basic analysis of demographics and existing business characteristics. Community Transformation Strategies are short and long-term strategies that guide the community toward the realization of its vision. These strategies are then implemented using the Four Points (as
Measurements show results coming from implementing tasks and completing projects. These measurements can be used to identify milestones and prove success to the community, funders, and others.
For more information on the Main Street Approach, click here.