The Buzz

Back in June, I was worried I wouldn’t get enough media attention to fund the book Kickstarter. When a hail Mary post on Facebook caught the attention of an LSJ journalist, I was ecstatic! Eric Lacy did a wonderful job bringing the details of my project and the books to life. But the real miracle was all of my friends and family who grabbed that post and shared it, over and over and over! Without that, I am certain, I wouldn’t have made it.

But it did!

Then my friend Melik made a gorgeous video, embellished with my very own photographs and he and I chatting it up. It was laid back, it was sweet, and it was really relevant. I love Melik! He’s such a talented and generous soul in this Lansing community. If you haven’t met him yet, you should! He operates Lansing Made, which hosts the 517 event each year, sells merch, and all around supports all #LoveLansing events. He is also a very talented photographer.

I was so thankful when I reached goal. The stress was gone, but I didn’t want to have the whole thing disappear from notice. I had booked a few news interviews earlier in the summer and was hoping the timing would be perfect.

I had a really nice interview with Chris Buck who not only is the Economic Development Director at Meridian Township, he also is the host of Michigan Reimagined podcast. We actually had two interviews; one in early July and one at the end of the month. He felt the story was so compelling it needed two parts!

Part 1

Part 2

The very next day after meeting Chris, I was invited to visit the Hatch podcast crew in East Lansing. I met three wonderful people there, and had a marvelous interview with them. I was one of three artists brought in to speak on the subject of art, entrepreneurial spitit, and how it could all work together.

Listen here

In August, I had an interview with Cassidy for CADL and also Jack Robbins with LCC’s Coffee Break radio broadcast.

I joined Lansing 5:01 for a college back to school event and then began the process of delivering the books! I was really excited to get those books into readers’ hands.

By the last week of September, I had both books (100 of the memoir and 70 of the photo book) and was starting book signing events. My very first was at City Hall in downtown Lansing and then I headed over to Blue Owl in Old Town, where owner Nick Berry graciously allowed me to use his cool, new coffee house.

Annie Signs with Cedar Street Art Collective invited me to an artist mixer and I set up my little book stand with bookmarks and photos. I really enjoyed speaking to people about the book, the process, and the City Saunter project.

WILX News 10 did an amazing interview with me and put out a nice video a week later. Then at the end of October, I did an interview with my good friend Michael McCallum, who hosts The Magic Hour on Michigan Business Network. We did six roughly six minute interviews. And finally, yesterday, I found the paper version of the article M3 Group did for their Women’s Lifestyle magazine. I was listed under Local Women.

Having all these groups and people interested in my work is amazing. It really does make it seem worth all the trials and frustrations of learning how to write a book in this day and age of Indie book and self publishing. It took me almost a full year just to learn the publishing process that would work for my needs. Today, I even was able to upload my “manuscript” and create an ebook for Kindle and table on Amazon’s platform. My next step will be creating a paperback version of the memoir. I will most likely not convert the photo book, as I feel it is best represented as a hard cover photo book. Both books are available on my website, and now on Amazon.

If you’ve read the books, I would love to know what you’re thinking, how you liked it, and anything else you’d like to share.


With only two more days left in October, I should be in a fret about delivering all the products from the Kickstarter I did back in July. But I’m not! The reason? I was able to deliver every book ordered! I was able to even do a real City Saunter with the backer who picked that as their reward. I only have two people from the 64 backers who I have been unable to communicate with. I tried, multiple times. One was a bookmark and the other was a digital photo. That’s it! So if you backed the kickstarter and didn’t get an email, check your spam folder, or contact me. I’ve been waiting to hear from you!

I can’t even believe how smoothly this whole process has been! With each step, I researched, prayed, maybe cried, researched some more, prayed some more, and then went ahead with what I thought was the best way to do it. When I got the proof photo book (The City Saunter Project), I was in the middle of planning and celebrating my parent in laws’ 50th wedding anniversary. I sliced the newly delivered box of books open, rustled through the packaging paper, grabbed a book, and raced off to the event. I showed it to my Uncle (in-law) Mike and Aunt (in-law) Kaye. I showed my kids. I passed it around to my siblings in law. Everyone loved it! I ordered 80 and waited for the shipment. Since I already had the memoir (A City Saunter Story), I was able to mail that book to those who purchased the one book. By the second week in September, I had both books in and began the mailing process. Earlier in the summer, I had a meeting with my friend Camron Gnass, who had also designed and published a book. He donated to me 100 book boxes that he wasn’t using anymore. What a gift! These boxes perfectly fit all of my mailing needs.

After making multiple trips the the post office, the postal lady now recognizes me when I come in. “You have more books to mail?” She says with a smile, as I carry my stack of perfectly boxed books to the counter. It’s kind of fun. I’ve sent books to 13 different states!

As soon as I started delivering for the Kickstarter supporters, I also started selling the books to those that didn’t get a chance to order through the pre-order.

You can still order the books through me here

I also had a few book signing events. The first was for the 5:01 group which hosted an event at the Cooley Stadium on September 21. Although we got slammed by a surprise rain storm, the day turned out pretty good and I met some really nice people!

On October 4, the sixth anniversary of completing the City Saunter Project, I had a book signing at City Hall in the morning and the Blue Owl coffee shop in Old Town that afternoon. Two weeks later I was invited to participate at the Cedar Street Art Collective Art Council Mixer.

I’ve appreciate those who host media sites for all the positive interviews as well. I have been interviewed by Chris Buck, the host of Michigan Reimagined, Nicole Joy with WILX 10 News, Rachel Kay with Local First Mid-Michigan, Michael McCallum with The Magic Hour with Michael McCallum, Kyle with the Capitol Area Women’s Lifestyle magazine, Gabe & Aaryn with MSU’s Hatchcast, the folks at Coffee Break on LCC Campus, and Melik Brown with Lansing Made. To say this has been an exciting ride, would be an understatement.

My next step is getting the books into stores. I have a mental process of how to do this, but like this entire process, it’s all brand new to me. So I learn and figure it out, hope for the best, make changes as needed, and push through again. I didn’t really realize that becoming an actual publisher and distributor would be part of this process. I am thankful for all who have given me advice and positive reinforcement. It has helped tremendously!

I am often blown away by the positive attitude people send my way. I love the Lansing area, the people here, and the whole supportive community. We really do have something special here.

City Saunter Books

Sometime around noon tomorrow, I should be getting 5 cases with 100 of my memoir books in it. My book. Your books. I am so thankful to all the people who trusted me and pre-paid for their chance to be the first owners of The City Saunter Story. As nervous as I am about having people read it ⁠— finally, I am also super pumped to hear what other people think! The photo/blog book will be here sometime next week and I get to have the excitement all over again! Then I get to start booking signings, talks, presentations, and one City Saunter with someone who chose that as their campaign pledge! If anyone is interested in having me come in for a talk, I would love to work out the details with you. If you have a place of business or a group that meets someplace, and you’d like to host a book signing, let me know about that too!

If you didn’t get your book, you can still order through me. Here is the link for that: I WANT A BOOK!

Thank you!

Interviews with Chris Buck from Michigan Reimagined

First Interview


Second Interview with Chris


The New Gardens


On June 22, 2011, I met with a group of friends for a City Saunter photo walk through Cooley Gardens. I realized I had never been there before. We explored the beautiful Cooley Garden area and then meandered over to the Scott Sunken Garden. Walking allowed us the ability to search and find, and we were amazed at finding this immaculate sunken garden just south of Malcolm X Street. At the time I felt it was a shame that this beautiful treasure was so hidden. There were no signs visibly stating what this public beauty was. It wasn’t until walking right up to it, could we read the signs and gather the information needed to realize what it was. All the years in the area, I had always thought it was a private residents.


Now all that is different. Starting in the late winter of 2017 the plan to raze the area the Scott Sunken Garden was in, move the garden brick by brick to a new location, and build a BWL Substation, began. It was traumatic to witness, to be honest. I went on a tour of the area in the middle of construction and found it unsettling. You can read that blog here. Yesterday, after shooting lobby and publicity shots for Riverwalk Theatre, I decided to stop by the newly reopened Cooley and Scott Sunken Gardens. Since I was on the REO Town Commercial Association for four years as a board member, I was in the know about all things REO Town, and was a bit disappointed to not know about this reopening. Through those years I attended all the meetings but one, and was actively involved in important decisions regarding this location. I had been eagerly waiting to see how this new construction panned out.


As much as some folx really didn’t want this substation to go in, I must admit, for being what it is, it’s quite impressive. I recently went to a new place and their substation just sat in the middle of the city with chain link fence around it. It was ugly and prominent. Upon entering the new parking lot, it was remarkably different than the old gardens. The parking lot is pristine. It splits in two directions, one nearer the Cooley-Haze House and the other closer to the substation. Each provide walkers easy access to the new gardens. The sidewalks are beautiful, wide cemented paths. For aesthetic purposes, BWL added growing walls on the western and northern edge of the walls, which adds a distinct pop of color. Also new, are the many plaques along the walkways. Each plaque articulates the history of R.E. Olds, the Grand River, the gardens, and many other historic placemakers in this area.In this new lay-out, the Scott Sunken Garden is front and center. You can’t miss it. It has now become the crown jewel of REO Town as it always should have been. Set amongst slightly rolling hills, the only disturbing aspect is the protruding smoke stacks jutting out in the background, which I am sure will be a plus for some and a negative for others. The untouched Cooley Garden now easily compliments a multi-location attraction that brought more visitors in the twenty minutes I was there, than I have ever seen when it was over grown and unknown. I think if the substation controversy did anything, it brought attention to these two gorgeous, historic gardens. I took a quick walk through Cooley Garden, although it’s the same as it was. It was never suppose to have any changes with the build of the substation. As I turned to leave out the eastern path, I noticed my view now stretched all the way to Washington Ave. The view in the entire area is very open. As much as I loved the old growth trees on these properties, it really isolated the gardens. I circled around the Scott Sunken Garden, taking in the river view, which is now quite visible, and meandered down the new path towards Washington Ave. This is a beautiful path that leads out along the river to the plaza on the eastern edge of the substation. Again, I must say this is a drastic improvement from the chain link fence, homeless person hideaway, and over grown hill, it had been before. 


Along the eastern edge is the new sidewalk on Washington Ave. and at the corner is a beautiful entryway into REO Town. I really liked it. The artwork by Michigan Imagery adds another pop of color and whimsical flare. The walk back to my car down Malcolm X Street isn’t the grassy yard and ancient tree line it once was, but I think I can get used to the clean brick facade that maybe flows a little better in an auto-industry city. There’s no mistaken that SOMETHING is here now. Scott Sunken Garden and Cooley Garden are located at 125 W. Malcolm X Street. Malcolm X Street is a one way, heading east, so access is from the west. It sits on the south side of the road. If you’ve reached Washington Ave., you’ve gone too far.

All images are © Ariniko Artistry 2019

More images are available on my City Saunter Facebook Page and my Ariniko Artistry Facebook Page.

It Looks Like We Made It!

THANK YOU!!! Next Step, printing!


Twenty Five Days left

City_Saunter_ReviewI have been managing the Kickstarter campaign for five days now. I think I’ve shared it on all the social media sites I have! I’ve started sending direct emails to people. I even pulled out the sign in book I had at my exhibit opening night!

Right now I have reached 45% of my goal (31 books!). I’m really excited about that, but until I have fully funded these pre-orders, I will feel I still have work to do.

I had a text conversation with someone today who mentioned he didn’t need to buy the books because he grew up in Lansing. Funny, to me, that’s the very reason someone would WANT to buy it! This also made me realize that those who are buying the books right now, are doing so on trust and generosity. They are trusting that I tell I good story. Or they are being incredibly supportive of me and this project. The image at the top of this blog is direct quotes my friends (beta readers) sent to me after they read the book. I am sharing this so you can see from their words how they felt about my stories in A City Saunter Story. Maybe you’ve also been a life-long Lansingite, but I wonder if you, like me, only know your Lansing. Do you know my Lansing? Do you know your neighbor’s Lansing? It’s interesting how you can get something more out of an event, person, or place, by hearing a new story about it. Have you ever loved something more because you learned a little something personal about it? I would think that this story is like that. I hope that it’s like that.

The Kickstarter Pre-Order campaign will continue through July 6.

To all who have ordered already, thank you! Sincerely, thank you! For those who may have additional questions, don’t be shy. You know I like to talk! Let me know what your thoughts are, and I will do my best to answer them for you.

Thank you!



Book_Cover_MemoirThis book has been in the works for over two years! In 2013, as I was finishing my walking project, being asked what I was going to do next was asked often. Usually the next line was, “Are you going to write a book?” At the time I just assumed it was going to happen. “Of course I’ll write a book,” I would confidently offer. Never did I realize how overwhelmingly complicated that would be. First, I was held up because I couldn’t decide on a title. “I can’t write, I don’t have a title,” I would tell my husband. At some point, after being asked over and over, I finally decided to push beyond that. A title would come. Or it already came. Then my other complication stemmed from being so busy managing a hopping event space in REO Town, participating on their board for 4 years, and helping host event after event, that I didn’t have time to write.

Two years ago, I made the heart aching decision to close down AA Creative Corridor to dedicate more time to my photography and writing this book, and that did that trick! That summer I was able to begin the dedicated writing process. The words flowed from me, which was nice, but the story was huge, like 95,000 words huge! I was having a hard time finding direction for the story. Should it be chronological, themed, or both? In the end, after creating a list of every blog I made, taking notes on the process, creating a timeline, reevaluating the photos I took (It was amazing how much having the photos helped me remember), and finally an outline, I was able to put together an intriguing story. From there I began the editing process. The whole time I was also researching publishing, editing, editors, and everything I would need to bring this story to life. My first thought was I would use Amazon just like all the other self published authors I knew. I checked out the publishing site, and although complicated, I thought it was relatively uncomplicated. Through their publishing site I could do Direct Orders and with the proceeds have copies made as I could. Those would be soft cover, pre-sized, books. And I was fine with that.

BETA Readers

As I moved through the editing process I knew I would need people to read the book through–my beta readers. These would be entry folks who would notice continuity flaws, typing errors, repeat of story (which I was having a hard time with), and accuracy of details. It was early October 2018, and I couldn’t wait to hear back from these close family and friends. By November, I hadn’t heard a peep from any of them. My husband was slowly working through the book and bringing me edits about once a week, but that was it! No one was reading it for me. So I sought out more editors. This time I decided to pick people I knew had written books, as well as published. They knew the system. They knew how to edit. And they were very eager to read my book! One of these editors was so thorough, he’s actually now considering adding professional editor to his resume. He fact checked, he helped organize my thoughts, he pointed out where something wasn’t quite working, and it was a perfect reevaluation of what I had already written. The other beta readers were also coming in with similar responses. This was happening!

Finally Done! 

By early spring of 2019 I had reread the book at least 15 times. I was mentioning it to people who hadn’t heard about my walking project, and they were excited to hear about it. I had a list of people who had already told me they couldn’t wait to buy the book, and it was about 100 people! At one point, while attending an event on Michigan Ave, we ran into the new mayor of Lansing. A friend was with us and he boldly told the mayor about my walking project and that I had a book coming out about it. The mayor then said, let me know when it’s out and I’ll buy your first copy. Without thinking, I said, I already have a whole bunch of people ahead of you, but I’ll definitely let you know when it’s ready! After he left me husband looked at me and said, “Did you just tell the mayor to take a number?” I felt so badly, but yes, I had in fact told the mayor of Lansing to take a number!



One of the notions that began to form from those reading the book so far was that it needed to be published in hard cover. Hard cover is a different self publishing animal. They felt it was such an extraordinary book, one that would be sought after for schools, local museums, visitor centers, libraries, and such, that it needed to be durable and hardbound. From the research I had done, I knew making it hard cover was going to be more complicated and more expensive. Again, I began researching. There are multiple sites that create hard cover books, with the best being Ingram Sparks. I was also beginning to put together the companion photo book, as many of the stories talked about in the memoir referenced back to a photograph. Through Blurb I was able to create the photo book and link it to Ingram Sparks.

I really am still forming a publishing game plan, but I feel that having the pre-order payments will get me through the last leg. The books are done, they only need to printed at this point. There’s a few fees associated with that, like buying an ISBN number for each book and set up fees for Ingram Sparks. Easy enough!

Final Stretch

Last night I launched my Kickstarter campaign. I have one month, 30 days, to raise the funds needed to print out these books. I was so scared last night to click go, but again, friends came through late into the evening offering support, and I did it! I clicked that big green launch button. This morning I woke up to four books purchased! My mental goal is 50 of each sold. There are some other great rewards, though, if having the books isn’t what you’re looking for. Here’s the link for the Kickstarter City Saunter Book Campaign. Please share with anyone you know that may be interested in a good book about Lansing, growing up here, watching it develop into what it is now, and a project about walking all the streets in Lansing. It’s a good read. The photo book will be one of a kind as well!

Kickstarter Campaign Link

Thank you for supporting this project!

Take care,




In the early spring of 2013, as I worked my last 9 months of a three year project to walk every street in Lansing, I had no idea what my next step would be. I had thought maybe the city would hire me for my accumulated data collected while walking all 537 miles of the city. I thought maybe I could concentrate on my photography business, Ariniko Artistry. I had prayed many times for a studio to begin portrait work. In April of 2013 I booked my soon to be created City Saunter Exhibit at Art Alley in REO Town. I spent the rest of the spring and summer finishing the walking, creating prints and buying frames. My fundraising endeavors had helped make this dream a possibility. I was incredibly excited to have my art from this three year project framed and hanging in a real gallery. Then in September 2013 the gallery group that promised to hang my art moved out. I wasn’t given a warning, they actually never contacted me. I was told by a friend who was in the same building. After the shock, I went into action and per advice from many friends; I called and arranged to rent the same space that had once been Art Alley directly from the landlord.



I paid for 3 weeks and signed a lease with the management group. Running the exhibit there for 3 weeks was amazing. My husband and I packed up our computers from our home offices and drove to our new REO Town office on weekdays. I immediately felt at home in the space. I loved watching all the walkers go by my window on their way to local eateries or school. I loved the artistic sense in the area and the growing hunger to bring more to the location. While in my space I met the other renters who all had small businesses. I met Kathaleen Parker who owns Soulful Earth Herbals who had the other window space next to me.


I met Paul Starr who ran I’m a Beer Hound in one of the smaller offices.  In the next office was Paul Schmidt, owner of UnoDeuce Multimedia, who I knew from Market Lansing events. Good Fruit Video owners, Justin Caine and Kraig Westfall rounded out the tenants on the lower level of 1133 & 1131 S. Washington Ave. All of these people became fast, close friends. We spoke about small business, REO Town, networking, art and family regularly. We encouraged each other and supported each other. We even worked for and with each other.


When my lease time came to an end I had a decision to make. I had floated the idea by the landlord of staying on full time to attempt to recreate what Art Alley had been doing. He was excited about that idea and asked me to consider it. Both of us were already fielding questions about folks desiring to use the space for events and dancing. He asked me to manage the space and I decided to do just that. I had really wanted a photography studio for myself and to share with photographers and this would be perfect for that. When events weren’t booked, photographers could come in hourly to rent the space for their business. I created a new name, AA Creative Corridor (with the AA representing Art Alley as well as Ariniko Artistry and Creative Corridor was a synonym for Art Alley), a website, and a Facebook page and began marketing this space as a creative rental space in the heart of REO Town. For 3 years I booked, hosted, and cleaned up after countless birthday parties, holiday parties, anniversaries, weddings, business meetings, artistic exhibits, pop up markets, open houses, concerts, dancing and theatrical productions. I drove in from Haslett to let other photographers use the space, as well as comedian groups, yoga instructors, actors and musicians. I also was able to use the space as my studio for inside photography shoots.






I had great pride and joy knowing REO Town was becoming a destination location for many of the events I was booking. I had folks coming in from all over Michigan and for some events all over the country. I had a virtual architecture college exhibit with me with students meeting for the first time from Texas, California, Canada and Michigan. Many who came to AA Creative Corridor had never been to Lansing before.  I would ask those who rented from me what brought them to AA Creative Corridor and was told over and over that it was right in the middle between Detroit and Grand Rapids; the perfect midpoint for families spread out across Michigan.


For almost four years I booked events, scheduled photographers and hung art for exhibits.




I spent the majority of my weekends in REO Town either working my events or volunteering at a REO Town event like Art Attack or Thrift Store Gala. I was voted onto the REO Town Commercial Association board in April 2015. In 2016 I was voted in as Vice President of the board. I took my role on the board very seriously and attended all meetings, volunteering when I could and joining the Business Development and Promotional subcommittees.  I met business owners in the business district. I attended grand openings of new businesses. I virtually supported as many businesses as I could. I honestly delighted in being part of this wonderful community.




The passion Local REO Town people have for what they do surpasses anything I’ve seen before. I watched a strong core group build this community up every day. They built stages, giant signs, and picnic tables.




They established yearly events that keep growing year after year.


I watched every commercial spot fill in with another energized small business. And if one left another would take its place quickly. I watched hand-crafted signage go into place door after door. I watched Vintage Café close down only to be replaced soon after by the incredibly successful Saddleback Barbecue.



I watched Vintage Junkies, The Nook and Thriftique move in along side St. Vincent De Paul and catapult REO Town into a second hand, vintage hot spot.



I watched Riverview Church move in, repairing an incredible worn out building and parking lot to a level of sophistication and grace perfect for REO Town. I watched the graffiti wall change face more times than I could count, providing the perfect backdrop for a portrait photographer.


I participated in the Arts and Craft Beer Festival for 4 years as both a venue and an artist. I watched Art Attack get bigger and better every year. This year we’re shutting the street down for the biggest one yet.



I watched Dylan and Jeana-Dee buy, rebuild and open The Robin Theatre to great success. Together our two venues have participated in multiple pop-up markets drawing even larger crowds to the area.


I watched Michigan Creative and Blue Owl move in, changing the dynamic of our quaint street.



I watched board members create a business entity to buy even more buildings. Their latest will host a pottery business, a music venue and a distillery. Each week there’s a new activity. Each week there’s something exciting. Each week I fall more in love with this part of the city, which makes what I have to do very, very difficult.

27_IMG_1949         I am not good with change. Once I get a situation, a relationship or a lifestyle in place I stay quite loyal to it. The idea of making any change is frightening to me. So I do the simple thing, and stay, despite the arrangement being detrimental to my emotional and physical health. It became apparent to me at the beginning of this year, soon after being diagnosed with a deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot in my right calf, that I had worn myself out. I had put off working on any AA Creative Corridor since mid December so I could enjoy the holidays and my birthday. Before I was able to get caught up I was admitted to the hospital. I was then placed on multiple blood thinning medications. For a week I was queasy from the medicine and the shock of going to the hospital and having quite a few aspects of my personal life affected. By the time I was able to concentrate on booking events I’d gotten quite a bit behind. I worked really hard to get caught back up but the drain of the health situation, getting a new puppy and watching my 4 year old grandson had really started to wear on me. I kept pushing forward, hoping I’d get my footing again.  I was booking multiple events from Thursday through Sunday almost solid through July. Sometimes the schedule had me on my feet for over 16 hours a day. I had hoped to bring someone on to help with the schedule. Unfortunately that was put on hold when an increase in the budget made that more complicated. As the year continued my emotional state had also changed. I found I was upset when someone called. I was agitated with each drive through Frandor. I was annoyed by things that never seemed to bother me before. I was burned out; really, really burned out. So I prayed. Through prayer it became evident that it was time for me to let this dream go. As heartbreaking as that has been for me to accept, I know it’s the right decision. I’ve been fighting with this for 3 months and it wasn’t even up until yesterday that I fully decided. I have come up with variation after variation to make it work or make it not work. Over the weekend a friend simply stated that I should make a pros and cons list. I had been doing this list in my head but hadn’t taken the time to write it out. So I did. Sure enough, my reasons to leave out weighed my reasons to stay. I was really saddened of the thought that I may lose my REO Town Board position. I was also concerned about the financial situation as we will not only lose the venue income but also my photography will take a hit from no longer having a studio to shoot in.


I’m hoping something else comes along or that I can find places to shoot in. On the other hand I am excited that I’ll finally have time to work on my City Saunter book which has been on hold since I finished the project in 2013. I am also excited about concentrating more time on Ariniko Artistry, which took a back seat to the gallery. I can’t wait to be home to spend weekends with my twins and my husband as well.


I will always treasure the almost 4 years I spent in REO Town. I met some of the most amazing people there, including business owners, patrons, photographers, artists and residents. My twins spent almost half their life with me managing this space. What an incredible adventure this district gave me and my family. With that, at the end of July I will gracefully depart from the REO Town district as the manager of AA Creative Corridor. The 1133 S. Washington Ave. space will then be exclusively used by Salsa Capital (2nd and 4th Friday) and the Speakeasy Stomp blues/swing dancers (formally known as Sugar House Blues and Sugar House Swing) that host dancing every 1st & 3rd Friday and Saturdays of the month.


To all the people I met while being a part of REO Town I honestly, from the bottom of my heart, want to thank you. Thank you for letting me in. Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for including me. Thank you for befriending me. Thank you for all that you did to help me create this wonderful venue space. I will miss this space and all of you more than anyone could ever put into words.  Oh, REO Town! My REO Town, thank you, thank you, thank you!




The No Longer Secret Garden


View on 496 overpass facing south.

Yesterday I drove into REO Town like I have thousands of times since becoming part of this bustling, edgy neighborhood and a new expanse met my eyes. For years I’ve exited the 496 highway onto the downtown exit and turned left onto Washington Ave. to find a view of aged pine trees lining the hilltop of a hidden garden area. Few knew about this treasure. In fact I accidentally found it and made it a point to explore it for a City Saunter Walk back in 2012. You can find that blog here. As I turned this day the sky glared brightly before me, no longer blocked by the shapely trees with all three towering coal stacks protruded rudely out of the barren hilltop. At this starkness I cried. I knew it was coming but had no idea the profound reaction I would have.


View from bridge over the river on Washington Ave.

About a year ago I was told about the new BWL plans. I wasn’t happy to hear this news. As it turned out BWL, in the process of decommissioning the Eckert plant, would need to establish a new energy hub; a substation. There was a very specific need for this new substation. It would need to be along an existing power line and it had to be a certain distance away from the original source. There weren’t many properties that fit these requirements. Unfortunately the location they’d decided was the Scott Sunken Garden and adjoining house. For the next year the Lansing community would debate the need for such a move. As I’ve found out over and over in life, if an entity has more power, more authority and more money than any opposing entity, it will most likely get its way. Despite strong opposition from the community, BWL went ahead with their plans.


View from bridge on Washington Ave facing west. 

The plans for this new construction hit me from two specific perspectives. As the City Saunterer I was greatly disappointed. This area had a unique beauty to it and a historic significance. However, I’ve been through the area multiple times and visually could see the neglect. I’ve seen tossed away clothing, food and trash scattered throughout the area. The brush has grown up around most of the outlying areas making it unwalkable. The garden itself was a beautiful gem, yet underutilized and underappreciated.


The riverbank view with the trees down. The stone walkways are now visible. 

I also had the perspective of an active member in REO Town. As the Vice President of the REO Town Commercial Association I participated in multiple meetings where BWL presented their plan. They offered funds that were sorely needed. They offered art grants in excess of past offerings. They designed access where there was none. They promised to create a more friendly community garden area. They even offered to pay to have the historic house moved. For each loss they offered an olive branch. For almost a year I hoped something else would come along. I hoped a new decision would be made. I hoped a new plan would develop. Unfortunately nothing new emerged as an option. It had become apparent that this was going to happen and I was trying to find the silver lining in the situation.


The entrance to Cooley Garden is currently blocked. The proposed plan will resurface the parking lot which was full of pot holes and relocate the Scott Sunken Gardens to the lower level of the lot, making it closer to the Cooley Garden area. These two gardens will be connected with a lit pathway. 

A couple months into the New Year signs that this was really happening started to appear: fencing around the property, traffic cones, and tree trimming. They quickly moved into demolishing the historic house that sat on the property. The offer to move it was turned down by multiple groups as the repairs to the house made it unaffordable. Then within this last week or so all the trees were cut down. I’m not sure why that was the part that brought me to tears, but it was. It changed the entire landscape. The hidden garden was no longer hidden. Trees that once protected this treasured grove now lay piled in a heap of shredded pulp. A secluded grassy knoll now lay barren and muddy with only the ancient limestone structure remaining, void of most its greenery.


The limestone foundation of the Scott Sunken Garden. 


A large pile of mulch. 


The stumps from removed trees. 


The loss of trees drastically changed the landscape. 

Soon the new construction will begin and it will become normal to see a stone wall facing north as I turn onto Washington Ave. off the 496 highway. At some point it will probably feel like it’s always been there. I’m curious to see what that will look like. I’ve seen the renderings and it will be impressive. I’m excited to see the art on display. I’m hopeful about the proposed amphitheater area. I really like the idea of river access off Washington Ave. and the lit pathway leading to the Cooley Garden area and the newly established Sunken Garden BWL has promised to recreate. I feel at some point this REO Town addition will feel normal. But for many there will always be hidden deep inside that stone structure and updated art, the specter of a lost treasure; a beautiful sunken garden surrounded by towering, protective pines.


View through the fence on Washington Ave. 


One of many stumps left by removing the trees. 


Looking north from Washington Ave, shot over the fencing. 


The east wall of the Scott Sunken Garden. These stones will be reused to replicate the garden in the new location. 

**This blog post is written as my personal perspective and in no way represents the opinions of the REO Town Commercial Association or its members.