This week we headed to REO Town a neighborhood on a peninsula between the Red Cedar and Grand Rivers, south of 496 along Washington Ave. This re-emerging commercial and residential district is a hotbed of art, energy, and overall community building momentum. Our hosts were Ryan Wert, President of the REOTown Commercial Association and owner of Elm Street Recording & Brian McGrain, Chair of the Ingham County Commission and Associate Director/COO at CEDAM whose offices are located in REOTown.
Ryan and his wife moved into REOTown 11 years ago and began creating with neighbors and friends the kind of community they wanted, inventing fun events and connecting people around art, food, & fun. REOTown just hosted a very successful Art & Craft Beer Fest and is preparing for their second annual Thrift Store Gala and Burlesque Extravaganza, on March 21. The name alone says alot, but check out these pictures from last year’s event! http://on.fb.me/1f0jPn2
Our tour began at CEDAM’s offices and headed south to the New Horizons Computer Learning Center and co:space Emilie Randolph showed us this beautiful facility with workspace available on a short or longer term membership basis along with a full slate of computer training courses. The facility features a gigantic chalk mural depicting the history of REOTown and the automobile industry.
A great article for more information: http://bit.ly/1tpBckX
We crossed to the east side of Washington Ave. to visit the new Board of Water & Light Headquarters, which brought 180 employees to REOTown. The former train depot has been beautifully restored and now serves as BWL meeting space and is available for community events.
We headed north along Washington Ave. and found a full block of commercial activity from the REO Town Pub (more on that below), Cuttin Up Barber Shop which was doing a brisk midday business, and many more. We stopped in to see Kathaleen Parker at her shop Soulful Earth Herbals where she offers handcrafted soap, body products, herbal preparations and apothecary and is celebrating ten years of business this year. She also features some really cool dinosaur greeting cards created by her children–somehow I don’t have a photo to share, send me one Kathaleen and I’d love to feature it!
Another new anchor tenant along Washington Ave. is Riverview Church Inside is worship and meeting space with a preservation of its past as a bowling alley.
The space hosts both church services and community functions. Its exterior celebrates graffiti art, much of which was created with fellow REOTown organization REACH Art Studio
We headed north to the Good Truckin’ Diner, where Zach Corbin and Nicholas Sinicropi had amazing tacos awaiting us. In addition to great food, they had ideas to share about issues and opportunities for food truck operators in the City of Lansing. As owners of both a bricks and mortar establishment and a mobile food truck they have good insight into the business and ways to increase access for food trucks in the City. Great conversation with business owners who are working to make their neighborhood and Lansing a great place to eat! They also had high praise for our Ingham County Health Department and their efficient processes and support.
With happy tummies we headed over to see some of the residential features along Washington Ave. with a stop into Fountain Place Apts. located along the Lansing River Trail. Manager Beverly Hynes lives on-site at the apartments and clearly fosters a community among her residents, who are mainly young professionals and students with a few older adults and families. She began an on-site gardening program where residents can cultivate an area of the greenspace and has a host of programs that connect neighbors to one another. Stop in and meet Beverly and she’ll tell you all the reasons why Fountain Place and REOTown are a great place to live.
We finished up at REOTown Pub which is obviously the heart & soul of the neighborhood. Owner Roxanne shared her career path of social worker, to restaurant owner to pub owner (which can at times resemble her work as a social worker!). While not a full-service restaurant, every Wednesday you can enjoy steak night where Roxanne’s husband is grilling out back in his snowsuit (steak, potato, & salad for $10!). There I also met Paul Starr aka The Beer Hound, clearly a genius who has built a career out of celebrating Michigan’s craft beer culture. REOTown Pub is looking forward to celebrating Mardi Gras on March 17 with a crawfish boil out front.
REOTown is a community on the move and an example of how committed, creative residents and business owners can shape the future of Lansing. Stop by and enjoy meeting the neighbors who are making Lansing a great place to live, work, play, & learn.
Next week’s #WalkingWednesday slot is still open–where should I head next?