I like Old Town; a lot. Almost 40 years ago my family moved just north of Old Town. Only this Old Town wasn’t vibrant with colors. It didn’t hold festivals. It didn’t win awards. It was not filled with diverse businesses. It did have fantastic architecture and history. However when I lived nearby it was often a neglected area with its most prominent tenants being those who had no home. They would congregate at the corners and wander the streets. There wasn’t a VOA, or Loaves and Fishes or City Rescue Mission helping this population or so it would appear.
It wasn’t often that I would make my way south on Turner St. One reason I would make the trip was to get to my grandparent’s house. They owned a pool and the five mile bike ride was often worth it; especially in the summer. I recall racing my bike down Turner St. sometimes with my brother, sometimes alone since I had few friends allowed to bike this way. At the end of Turner I would cut across the parking area and make my way to a little dirt path where the future river walk would be created. The path ran along the river, behind industrial areas, and across closed down train trestle bridges. It ended at an open field at Cedar St. and Baker St. From there the path was mainly city streets that got me to my destination off Mt. Hope Ave. If I were to bike it today I would be able to ride the river trail almost the entire way.
Now travelling through Old Town is a completely different experience. As a child Old Town was a place to get through. Now it’s a destination. Now it’s where I go to get uniquely flavored popcorn and maybe a father’s day present at Craving’s Gourmet Popcorn. It’s a great place to watch the river while enjoying a pizza at Grand Café/Sir Pizza. It’s a gorgeous place to have a photo shoot. Soon it will also be a place to get a wonderful cup of coffee and a sandwich. While on my last Old Town City Saunter I had the great fortune of talking with the new operator for Arties Filling Station. This is a prime example of what Old Town does right. It leaves in place a historic building and adds new talent with great services within. John Miller will refresh the 90-year-old gas station and customers with a drive-thru, walk-up window coffeehouse and sandwich shop.
Old Town still has the most distinct architecture in the Lansing area. But it’s what is encased inside that is the true heart that beats this area to life. That heart is the people who have come to this area for the betterment of a community. They have come here to open their small businesses. They come here to volunteer for events and beautification projects. They come here to support and enjoy all that Old Town has to offer. And they continue to make Old Town a great asset to Lansing and the Lansing area.
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