Walking Wednesday: REO Town

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For this Walking Wednesday, we headed to REO Town, to see the improvements made by the REO Town Commercial Association, using Love Your Block Grant funds. We met with Ryan Wert, who was able to tell us about the history and changes that the neighborhood has made over the years.

REO Town was originally home to the REO Automobile company and its workers. This vibrant neighborhood has recently seen a increase in interest, in the residential neighborhoods, commercial corridor, and parks.

Our first stop was to see the Love Your Block Improvements. The Riverview Church parking lot has undergone landscaping improvements, as well as new picnic tables. This is now a place that is accessible to anyone attending a festival, or just getting a bite to eat along South Washington Avenue.

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We then walked around the neighborhood for a while, seeing what the residential part of the neighborhood was like. We ended up at Scott Park, which connects to the Lansing River Trail at the point where the Grand River and Red Cedar River converge. There were a lot of people out and about, eating, playing on the playground, and fishing. Its not surprising that people want to live in REO Town.The parkland and water made it surprising that we were so close to the city center. DSCN0390DSCN0392DSCN0391DSCN0394

We looped around and ended our walking tour by getting Saddleback BBQ. This restaurant alone is reason enough to stop by REO Town, with some of the best food I’ve had in Lansing. There are a lot of exciting things to do in REO Town, including walking through the parks, going to the new stores, or checking out the art scene. It was definitely worth the visit!

 

 

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A String of Pearls: Our Self-Guided Tour of the Westside

Yesterday, Clara and I held an impromptu Walking Wednesday on Lansing’s Westside. And while we were the only participants for the first hour, Andi Crawford joining us in  hour two, we had a resourceful guide to inform us on the historic homes strung together throughout the Westside. Put together by the Westside Commercial Association, the guide showed us where many of the premier businessmen of the early 1900s lived. To take a look at this guide and learn more about the homes below, please follow this link: http://bit.ly/1Cdiun4

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Here are some of the gems we saw on our self-guided tour. The image to a left is a former firehouse turned home and the right most image is a Tudor style home that was built in 1925.

Also on our self-guided tour, Clara and I came across another Little Free Library, which are quickly becoming our favorite Walking Wednesday Easter Egg. We each took a book, and I plan on going through my extensive book collection to see what I can share in these libraries throughout neighborhoods in Lansing.

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Decorated with Oldsmobile stickers, this Little Free Library was an ode to the Lansing Car Assembly, which had a large presence in the Westside of Lansing. Closed in 2005, one of the most prominent businesses on the Westside was a GM Assembly Plant. The property is now owned by RACER Trust, which was created by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to clean up and sell former GM properties. Where these factories once were on the Westside now sits a vast green space  with the potential to become something great. Below to the left is a picture of the property, which does no justice to its size.

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When Andi joined our tour, we went to see one of Ingham County’s Land Bank homes. This house isn’t in the first four groups for demolition and may be one of the homes they are going to revitalize. Either way, we filled some of our excitement by watching workers as they were taking down a tree behind the house piece by piece. Next week, Clara and I get to watch a full demolition of a blighted home and will have a full blog post on the Blight Elimination Project and how this ties into why Clara and I are here.

Andi also showed us Sexton High School, built in 1941, this school has some of the most beautiful carvings and architectural features that illuminate the beauty of its age. Located behind Sexton High School sits a large land of green space that connects to the football field. Then located beside that lives Saint Joseph Park, owned by the city, which also has a nice spread of green space. Westside residents have numerous options of greenery to roam through. From a handful of tree-filled and floral roundabouts, to these fields behind Sexton High School, the Westside isn’t lacking on foliage. Below is a side view of Sexton High School, as well as a couple of pictures of Saint Joseph Park.

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The Westside seems to be a place full of potential that was once recognized and now needs to be realized again. Surrounded by beautiful homes, starter homes, and great green space butting up against a main corridor, this is an opportune place to call home. Clara and I were both blown away by this neighborhood.   We ended our journey at Harry’s Place–a bar and grill that everyone in Lansing seems to rave about. Opened to serve GM workers, this place feels like a family’s favorite food and drink establishment. I had a tasty Greek wrap, saw a waitress playing life-size Jenga with a customer, and somehow lost track of two hours because conversation was not lacking. Harry’s Place feels like a family party without the stress of planning, just the laughs. I look forward to more visits to the Westside: A Pearl in Lansing.

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This blog post was created by Brittany Gordon.

That Lansing Feel: Sycamore Park

It is a special treat to be a tourist in your own town, and on yesterday’s Walking Wednesday casual guide of Sycamore Park, it was exactly that for me.

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For those unfamiliar with Walking Wednesdays, the fabulous Neighborhood Resource Coordinator, Andi Crawford, assists in neighborhood members facilitating walking tours of their own communities. This was my co-VISTA, Brittany, and my first taste of (literally) walking and talking with Lansing citizens. While the atmosphere was casual, the thrill of being “out in the community” was energizing me.

As a graduate of East Lansing High School, but just now becoming a full-time resident of the Capital City, I knew little of the neighborhoods I did not travel through during Drivers Ed class, or whatever else one does in high school. It was a great snapshot moment as a new VISTA member to spend time with residents, the true experts of the city, and to hear how everyone viewed their little slice of paradise.

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With Sycamore Park being just South of Downtown, its residents have quick access to the world-class amenities of MSU, Cooley Law School Stadium, the local river trail, Fenner Park, seemingly endless green spaces, and Lansing nightlife.

About a dozen of us took to the paved road to see the uniquely crafted and gracefully aging homes of Sycamore Park. With the trees in full bloom, green summer leaves and the summer solstice having just occurred, it was perfect weather to hear stories, laugh, ask questions, admire Mt. Hope School, and discover a Little Free Library.

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To end the evening Neighborhood Association President, Paul Wozniak, amazed us with the wonders of a watermelon slicer. All in all, it was exciting to be a part of community building by simply enjoying a person’s neighborhood with them. I anticipate hearing more from and working with these residents in the future, as they would be wonderful Love Your Block participants.

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Blog post written by VISTA Clara Martinez.