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Mayor designates funds to shape up downtown

September 28, 2000

In an attempt to further revitalize the downtown area, Lansing Mayor David Hollister is pouring money into businesses in the Washington Avenue area.

Hollister has designated $75,000 for grants to area businesses and property owners as a motivation for facade improvement and loft construction. The city also set aside funds for a business assistance financing program which allows businesses or developers to apply for a loan of up to $50,000 at an interest rate of 7 percent to be paid over seven years.

About $50,000 of the grant money will be put toward facade improvements for property and business owners in the 100 block of North Washington Avenue and the 100 to 500 blocks of South Washington Avenue. Owners or tenants can apply for up to $5,000 provided they match those funds.

The other $25,000 will go to owners in the area for loft apartment construction above stores. Applicants may request up to $2,500 for them.

Property and business owners can apply for both grants, said Marchelle Smith, the special projects administrator for the Economic Development Corporation for the city.

“This is pretty much a kind of a jump start, and we’re hoping it will take off and hopefully down the line there will be more funds from other sources,” Smith said.

Hollister said the idea for the loans and grants came out of recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Committee on downtown revitalization, which had found several barriers to development in the city such as parking problems, a lack of certain shops and a lack of housing.

“(The committee) identified a whole list of challenges that would have to be overcome,” Hollister said.

To accommodate the parking problem occurring with the creation of new apartments and lofts, some of the berms were removed downtown. Berms are landscaping, such as shrubberies or trees, that were built in little mounds around the city.

Lansing Councilmember Carol Wood said the program is vital for redevelopment and will bring more people to live downtown.

“I think that will continue to entice people,” she said. “I think we have to look at very different housing. I am very pleased to see that happening.”

The idea of grants and other moneys to refurbish downtown is not a new idea, said council Vice President Sandy Allen.

“It’s a wonderful idea,”she said. “It’s seemed to work in other cities.”


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