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Lansing uses pop up events in vacant building to draw public and buyers to Downtown

 City works to fill vacant spaces in Downtown Lansing
City works to fill vacant spaces in Downtown Lansing (WILX)
Published: Jan. 16, 2020 at 10:22 PM EST
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For sale signs line some of Lansing's most active streets downtown, with one of the largest signs hanging in the window of the iconic Knapps building.

To breathe life into some of these dark, empty lots, Downtown Lansing Inc. (DLI) is inviting the public inside by hosting events like Thursday's "Traffic Jam."

"It combines local artists, local restaurants and of course the community members all coming together to bring energy and light into the downtown and these underutilized spaces," said Cathleen Edgerly, the Downtown Lansing Inc. executive director.

DLI says the population and location play a role in why there are vacant lots.

"Downtown is part of an older part of the city and there was a time everyone went to the suburbs," said J.V. Anderton, DLI Board President. "I think people are starting to come back, but until there is a real integration downtown, there is going to be some vacancies."

Edgerly says the downtown vacancy rate is hovering around 16%. That includes a number of first-floor vacant lots and new developments in the works.

"We also have other properties being developed like the Comerica bank building with about 15 floors of opportunities happening and built out there," said Edgerly. "It's the same thing with Knapps, you don't usually see what it has to offer so you need to get in and experience for yourself."

From wide windows to the unique layout, plus Knapp's historic background, organizers hope events like Traffic Jam brings the public in to see the potential in vacant lots in downtown Lansing.

"Hopefully someone will come in with an idea to give a permanent home in here," said Anderton.

While DLI hopes retail or a restaurant will fill Knapps soon, long-time Lansing residents hope for something more upbeat.

"We would love to have a nightclub," said Julie Foltz and Barb Bellinger. "We need more music venues to draw a crowd downtown."

Lansing Downtown Inc will host these Traffic Jam events for the next four months.

They hope these events and their new lease assistance program will fill their vacant lots.

A new Meijer market and apartments are planned for the 600 block on Michigan Avenue.

DLI believes this development will also draw more people to live in the city.

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