#WalkingWednesday in the Baker Donora Neighborhood

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1st Ward Councilmember Jody Washington and Betty Draher in front of Betty's home

1st Ward City Council Member Jody Washington and Betty Draher in front of Betty’s home

Spring has finally arrived in Lansing and I had the opportunity to have a wonderful Walking Wednesday tour of the Baker Donora neighborhood with head of the Neighborhood Watch Betty Draher.

Baker Donora is bordered by Pennsylvania Ave to the East, Cedar St. to the West, Mt. Hope to the South and 496 to the North. Betty Draher was raised in the neighborhood and returned to her childhood home where she works with neighbors to continually improve it.

Baker Donora is in Lansing’s First Ward and City Council Member Jody Washington joined us for our tour.

In the heart of the neighborhood is Caesar/Donora Park which is across from Betty’s house.  It is filled with tons of green space & playground equipment in excellent condition.  Betty said that Brett Kaschinske, Director of Lansing Parks & Recreation said it was a “Front Door Park” as the houses across the street all face the park, adding to its safety because of high visibility.  She notes that the park has been much safer since removing all picnic tables and benches, which tend to attract people to sleep in the park.

Casear/Donora park

Caesar/Donora park

 

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Store owner John and Betty hug, joke, and I heard them say “you’re fired!” and “I want a raise!” to each other about 3 times each. Not sure who works for whom, but they definitely work well together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We headed north from Betty’s house to their anchor commercial property McNamara’s Party Store on Baker.

138https://www.facebook.com/McnamaraPartyStore?pnref=story Owner John greeted us and was a wonderful host.  His store is a neighborhood gathering spot and he and Betty maintain an information hub within it for neighborhood notices.  Betty said she was concerned when a liquor store was coming into her neighborhood, but now has high praise and an obvious friendship with John.  She said she’s been very pleased with his business, community involvement, and facade improvements.

 

Neighborhood information at McNamara's Party Store

Neighborhood information at McNamara’s Party Store

We headed throughout the neighborhood to see some currently vacant lots, a community garden, some beautiful homes, and some in need of serious repair or demolition.  Several neighbors stopped by to say hello and everyone knew Betty, of course.

Corner lot green space.

Corner lot green space.

Betty pointed out a fun fact about the neighborhood & showed us the birthplace of Burt Reynolds at 1703 Donora St. Read about it at http://lansingonlinenews.com/news/lost-lansing-burt-reynolds-native-son-and-now-wikipedia-agrees/

Birthplace of Burt Reynolds

Birthplace of Burt Reynolds

 

Betty and neighbors are working hard to continually improve her neighborhood.  Baker street is a main thoroughfare and crossover between Pennsylvania and Cedar.  She would like to see some demolitions of blighted properties to improve this entryway to her neighborhood.

I love Betty’s philosophy for getting things done.  When asked about her approach to neighborhood leadership, Betty said, “I don’t meet, I do”.

 

#WalkingWednesday heads to REOTown

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Looking north on Washington Ave.

Looking north on Washington Ave.

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 RecordingBrian 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.

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(L to R) Beverly Hynes, Manager of Fountain Place Apts., Larry Grudt of Capital Area Blues Society, Brian McGrain, Ryan Wert)

cospaceflyer cospacechalk

Conference space looking out onto Washington Ave.

Conference space looking out onto Washington Ave.

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.

Interior architecture of the restored train depot

Interior architecture of the restored train depot

A lot of Lansing in one picture:  the BWL depot, trains headed west, & the BWL smokestacks across the Grand River

A lot of Lansing in one picture: the BWL depot, trains headed west, & the BWL smokestacks across the Grand River

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!

Kathalenn at Soulful Earth Herbals.  I wish I could upload the amazing smells from this store--stop in and see for yourself!

Kathaleen at Soulful Earth Herbals. I wish I could upload the amazing smells from this store–stop in and see for yourself!

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.

A peak at both the sanctuary and the art gallery hallway

A peak at both the sanctuary and the art gallery hallway

The beautifully restored flooring with a hint of the past

The beautifully restored flooring with a hint of the past

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

Riverview Church graffiti

graffiti 2We 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.

Zach and Ryan talk REOTown & Food Truck culture over tacos.

Zach and Ryan talk REOTown & Food Truck culture over tacos.

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 Pub servin up their finest vintage--this is beer and spirits joint

REOTown Pub servin up their finest vintage–this is beer and spirits joint

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?

#WalkingWednesday hits the trail @Fenner Nature Center

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I headed into the woods for this week’s #WalkingWednesday and joined Fenner Nature Center’s http://www.mynaturecenter.org/ Program Manager and Volunteer Coordinator, Jenny Mensch, for a tour of some of the trails. Located in southeast Lansing at the corner of Mt. Hope and Aurelius Rd., Fenner Nature Center is an oasis of calm in the city.  Two bonus features:  the nature center has free admission (with a suggested small donation for its visitor center of $2 adults/$1 children) and allows leashed dogs on its trails.

A family of deer joined me

A family of deer joined me

Partnerships such as this one with MSU Extension provide support to programs.

Partnerships such as this one with MSU Extension provide support to programs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to it’s famous festivals–Apple Butter Festival in the Fall and the Maple Syrup Festival set for 3/21 this year–the center provides nature education programs for all ages.  A popular cure for your cabin fever at this time of year are the Winter Snowshoe Night Hikes, guided lantern-lit walks through the snow.  Snow shoe rental is now available at the center.

Fenner Nature Center is governed by the Fenner Conservancy whose mission “connects people to nature in the heart of Lansing through conservation, education, and stewardship”

Beautiful day for a walk in the woods

Beautiful day for a walk in the woods

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The nature center is currently restoring an 18 acre area of the property to a prairie for outdoor education and plans to build more facilities for events and education.

Prairie restoration underway with the support of several partners.

Prairie restoration underway with the support of several partners.

Fenner Nature Center is definitely a place that makes Lansing a great place to Live, Work, Play, & Learn for our neighbors.  Stop by for a walk in the woods during any season.  Of course, volunteers and donations are most welcome to help the center continue its great work.

#WalkingWednesday with SOCA (Saginaw Oakland Commercial Association)

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Another #WalkingWednesday filled with stories of the past & ideas for the future mixed with coffee, snow, great people, walking, & beer.

Our host was Rory Neuner, Director of the Saginaw Oakland Commercial Association https://www.facebook.com/SOCALansing and we were looking at the far western edge of the area this organization serves.

First stop was Biggby Coffee http://www.biggby.com/index.php at 2002 W. Saginaw, one of the top performing Biggby franchises in the whole company.  While the interior seating is limited in this location, entryways from both Saginaw & Oakland make for easy use of the drive-thru which was busy during our entire visit.  The Biggby staff was hopping the whole time and happy to tell us that their store was among the top 25 last month in company sales last month.  Go Lansing!

Biggby staff get us ready for the weather with some hot java

Biggby staff get us ready for the weather with some hot java

We headed out to check out “The Point” a triangular plot of land bordered by Saginaw, Oakland, and Stanley as you enter the City of Lansing limits from the west.  The community is dreaming of an upgrade to this entry point which could beautify the entryway and provide some traffic calming features.

Looking west toward "The Point" currently only marked by the small wood sign.  Neighbors would like a grander, more welcoming entrance to the city.

Looking west toward “The Point” currently only marked by the small wood sign. Neighbors would like a grander, more welcoming entrance to the city that communicates the vibrancy of the surrounding neighborhoods.

A feature of this stretch of Saginaw is the protected bike lane which heads all the way east to the River Trail.  This is one of the few protected bike lanes in Michigan.

Connecting neighbors to the River Trail and Downtown Lansing.

Connecting neighbors to the River Trail and Downtown Lansing.

We then headed slightly east and noted the existing businesses along the corridor including car sales, a Famous Taco, and others.  The Irish Pub building continues to undergo renovations and the neighborhood anxiously awaits its return to business.  The latest Facebook about post about progress was on June 2, 2014 https://www.facebook.com/IrishPubLansing I would love to give an update if anyone in the know can post to comments or contact me!

Irish Pub was purchased approx 2 years ago.  The neighborhood is anxious for this local favorite to reopen.

Irish Pub was purchased approx 2 years ago. The neighborhood is anxious for this local favorite to reopen.

We were then off to Harry’s Pub.  We headed through the neighborhood which once was home to Verlinden Elementary, a beautiful building which continues to serve children and families as Scribbles and Giggles Child Care http://www.scribblesandgiggleschildcare.com/ and the hulking Fisher Body Plant, which now stands as an empty field with the remnants of the plant foundations.

 

Foundation of the former Fisher Body Plant from the north.  The neighborhood looks forward to its redevelopment someday.

Foundation of the former Fisher Body Plant from the north. The neighborhood looks forward to its redevelopment someday.

 

 

Scribbles and Giggles had a full playground of children out enjoying the snow.  Heard the giggles loud & clear!

Scribbles and Giggles had a full playground of children out enjoying the snow. Heard the giggles loud & clear!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The surrounding neighborhood is served by the Westside Neighborhood Association http://wnalansing.com/, one of Lansing’s best organized and most active neighborhood associations.  Neighbors organize events, community wide garage sales, and neighborhood cleanups.  Their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/WestsideNeighborhoodAssociation/ has 915 members and their neighborhood pride is evident throughout the entire area.

We headed down Verlinden Ave to Harry’s Place, which once served the workers at Fisher Body.  Since the plant closing, the neighborhood has rallied to support Harry’s.  An old (2011) but good background story can be found at http://www.lansingcitypulse.com/lansing/article-5625-harryrss-place-changes-with-the-times.html.  I’d suggest stopping in and talking to anyone there for more details as the staff & regulars are happy to share.  Owners Harea & Hugh Bates continue to grow the business with a combination of great food and hospitality.  Hugh told us business continues to rebound and said that he used to only roll 18 rolls of silverware for the lunch “rush” and that was plenty.  Now, he’s rolling 125+ and going through them all. I had more than one patron tell me it’s the best pizza in town.   It’s worth a trip just to meet Hugh and hear about the history of the neighborhood and Harry’s–he was born to run a great neighborhood joint and I’m glad he found his way to that career after retiring from GM.

Hugh Bates (L) and Rory Neuner of the Saginaw Oakland Commercial Association

Hugh Bates (L) and Rory Neuner of the Saginaw Oakland Commercial Association

A Westside treasure

A Westside treasure

#WalkingWednesday series begins in Downtown Lansing

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Thank you to friends and colleagues who joined in for our first #WalkingWednesday event.  Downtown Lansing, Inc.,  The Lansing State Journal, and colleagues from Happendance, Inc. and the Michigan Department of Community Health all came out to learn about the downtown holiday decor and meet each other.

Learn More:

http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/local/2014/12/11/walking-wednesday-shows-neighborhoods/20264561/

Where should we go next week?

Building a Culture of Health in Mid-Michigan

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Signage at the Foster Community Center

Signage at the Foster Community Center

Healthy Community Asset Wayfinding on the Eastside

Healthy Community Asset Wayfinding on the Eastside

I’m excited to be back home in Lansing, MI working to create a culture of health in my home community.  I left Lansing 5 years ago to pursue an amazing professional opportunity with the YMCA of Broward County in South Florida.  I learned a great deal about building healthy communities at the local, state, and national level.  I’m excited to return home and be part of the exciting work that is happening in Lansing to build healthy systems for food, transportation, and housing that support healthy communities and economic development (which go hand-in-hand).

Above are some great examples of how leaders are communicating the health message.  These are just a few of many as the region continues its revitalization efforts.  I post many I find on Twitter @andicrawford.  Please add to the conversation using #healthycommunities or #cultureofhealth.  I’d love to connect with you.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation leads the national conversation and foundation investment in building healthy communities.  Great information about building a Culture of Health is available at the link, below is an excerpt.

http://www.rwjf.org/en/about-rwjf/annual-reports/presidents-message-2014.html

What Does Culture Of Health Mean To You?

It may mean having easy and affordable access to health care. It may mean creating neighborhoods where moms can feel comfortable letting their kids walk to school, play outside, and go to a nearby grocery store stocked with fresh and healthy choices. It may mean providing an elder with the helping hands she needs to remain in her home. Or it may mean living in a community where policy-makers, civic leaders, educators, employers, and residents work together to make the health of their entire community a priority.There is no single definition, which means when America ultimately achieves a Culture of Health it will be as multifaceted as the population it serves.

We believe an American Culture of Health is one in which:

  1. Good health flourishes across geographic, demographic and social sectors.
  2. Being healthy and staying healthy is valued by our entire society.
  3. Individuals and families have the means and the opportunity to make choices that lead to healthy lifestyles.
  4. Business, government, individuals, and organizations work together to foster healthy communities and lifestyles.
  5. Everyone has access to affordable, quality health care.
  6. No one is excluded.
  7. Health care is efficient and equitable.
  8. The economy is less burdened by excessive and unwarranted health care spending.
  9. The health of the population guides public and private decision-making.
  10. Americans understand that we are all in this together.