Downtown Lansing stakeholders have asked Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and lawmakers for $5 million to revive a “decimated” downtown Lansing.
After COVID-19 struck, the state of Michigan allowed 24,000 employees to work remotely. The loss of many in-person state workers, plus some private-sector jobs turning hybrid in 2021, chomped out of the downtown district an estimated loss of $50 million in revenues. Some businesses have adjusted accordingly, cutting hours, closing locations, and reducing menus.
Also, Michigan canceled over 1 million square feet of office space. Downtown Lansing’s vacancy rate more than doubled in 2021 for first-floor retail spaces, according to The Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, Lansing Economic Area Partnership, Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Capital Council of Governments.
“We are the state’s capital city,” they wrote. “The local business owners – the people and places that are your favorite lunch meeting locations, snack stops or outfitters – the ones who have managed to survive the pandemic thus far, are now on life support, with no end in sight. As you visit downtown, the evidence is clear. Downtown Lansing has been decimated and we are looking at a long 10-year road to recovery.”
The Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget (DTMB) Spokesman Caleb Buhs said Michigan’s remote policy is temporary.
“Because of the vast responsibilities of state government offices, there is not a single policy that governs remote work,” Buhs wrote in an email to The Center Square. “Each state department develops their own policies based on the needs of the individual responsibilities of that department. The current situation, which allows for more flexibility for employees to return to their approved remote work agreements during the continued public health crisis, is temporary.”
The $5 million would:
- Reduce downtown vacancies through incubators and entrepreneurial programming.
- Enact a Downtown Revolving Loan Fund to support small businesses to rehab buildings. Buildings must be reconfigured for more flexible uses.
- Enhance outdoor community spaces to provide COVID safe seating.
- Add capacity to the Downtown Lansing Inc. team.
Last week, Mayor Andy Schor announced a planned $21 million concert venue downtown scheduled to break ground this year. The 2,000-person venue plans to offer as many as 40 retail and office spaces.
Weston Kewpee’s opened in 1923. Autumn Weston, a 4th-generation owner, told The Center Square that the money and concert venue would help “reset,” attract more people, and support downtown businesses after foot traffic has dissipated.
COVID hit downtown hard, leaving Kewpees “like a destination restaurant” with nearby empty retail spaces, Weston said.
“Whether its to bring city [residents] or state workers downtown, we just need people,” Weston said.
This article was originally posted on LEAP seeks $5 million to revive ‘decimated’ downtown Lansing