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Acres of Play invites preschoolers to drive their own learning

D'Lynn Smith believes in letting kids make a mess. She also believes in letting them explore, move and direct their own playtime activities as a way to learn.

In early 2017, D'Lynn Smith opened Acres of Play based on her long-held philosophy of early learning and childcare. The licensed preschool—or "playschool" as Smith calls it—offers a home-based option for working families of 3-, 4- and 5-year old children.

"I opened this because I saw a great decline in programs offering true play for children—or simply allowing children to play authentically according to their nature," says Smith. "There's this huge academic push for kids to know their alphabet and be mathematically set and test well before kindergarten. I want to bring back that true, child-led form of play."

Acres of Play is located at D'Lynn's ranch-style home in Charlotte. She converted three rooms in the upper level for the preschool, starting with the 12-foot by 15-foot living room that became the main classroom and nap area. One of the three bedrooms became a "construction room" complete with toy bricks and tubes and other building materials; a second became an art and playhouse area furnished with a toy kitchen and stove, and an art table with supplies for making and creating.

Children go on occasional field trips and venture outdoors every day for play. The landscape of the huge, two-acre backyard is equipped with a climbing structure, a mud kitchen made with pallets, buckets and water, tools for shoveling and scooping, and items to roll and push and move.

"We do a lot of sensory and imaginary play," says Smith. "I don't have trademarked toys, and we don't watch movies or have screen time. We read a lot. We sing. We dance. We have art activities that are their own. It's very child-driven and child-led."

Acres of Play is licensed for six children and runs during the academic year. Smith also offers a series of summer camps based on age groups for children up to third grade. The preschool is currently enrolling for fall.

Source: D'Lynn Smith, Owner and Teacher, Acres of Play
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Capital Gains? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Firecracker Foundation triples footprint with new office space in Holt

Four years ago, Tashmica Torok founded the Firecracker Foundation from her home in South Lansing. In early June, she moved the organization into a 2,000-square foot space in Holt.

"Originally, my goal was to help six kids," says Torok. "I had no idea this is what it would become."

Torok started the Firecracker Foundation to provide child survivors of sexual trauma and their families with high quality, consistent holistic healing services. Those service have evolved to include individual mental health therapy, trauma sensitive yoga therapy, and caretaker support groups.

The foundation's new location is the organization's fourth, following a path that led from Torok's home in South Lansing to The NEO Center in North Lansing to REO Town to Suite 9 in the office plaza at 2450 Delphi Commerce Drive.

"We were looking for a place that would accommodate not just administrative work, but our program work that includes yoga and therapy," says Torok. "This office has two spaces for yoga, two therapy rooms, and some group therapy rooms as well."

Before moving, Torok gave the space a makeover, including fresh paint, new carpeting and hardwood flooring, and putting up walls to section off service areas. The larger footprint triples the foundation's previous office in REO Town. The expansion enables Torok to offer on-site space to contracted, qualified therapists, and to run more yoga programming. Torok says the new facility also provides plenty of space for the foundation's pediatric medical advisory team to hold training and continuing education sessions.

The Firecracker Foundation employs two staff in addition to Torok, and benefits from the donated talented and services of about 75 active volunteers. Torok contracts with five therapists qualified to work with pediatric sexual trauma and five trauma-informed yoga instructors.

In the past year, the Foundation's client base has grown from 25 to 100 clients, with services provided to children and families.

"It makes me feel hopeful," says Torok of the organization's rapid growth. "I think what we've created is necessary and it's evolving to meet the needs of children and families in our community."

Source: Tashmica Torok, Executive Director, Firecracker Foundation
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Capital Gains? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Boys and Girls Club breaks ground on new teen center with gift from Jackson National Life

Teens will have a new place to learn, gather and create come June 2016 as construction gets underway this February on a year-round teen center at the Boys and Girls Club of Lansing.
The Jackson Teen Zone will be 2,700-square feet of dedicated space for the more than 1,500 teens who come to the Boys and Girls Club of Lansing for after-school programs and summer curriculum each year. Jackson National Life Insurance Company committed $600,000 to build the new center attached to the existing facility at 4315 Pleasant Grove Road on Lansing's south side.
"Right now, our building is generally at capacity and when we do our STEM programs, we do it wherever we can find the space," says Sandra Kowalk-Thompson, director of development for Lansing's Boys and Girls Club. "The Jackson Teen Zone will take things to the next level and means that teens can really step up and experience some exciting educational programming."
The Jackson Teen Zone will house state-of-the-art technology and provide a space for a variety of teen educational programs. An expanded Makerspace will be led by Angela Calabrese-Barton from Michigan State University.
"Jackson's lead gift will allow us to do some things that financially we couldn't do before," says Kowalk-Thompson. "We'll have maker stations where kids can do things, tables with built-in power supplies, 3D printers and laser cutters, and high definition projectors and screens—all the things you would expect to see in a state-of-the-art tech center."
Kowalk-Thompson says the Boys and Girls Club is open when kids need them most—during the summer and after school, and provides a positive environment in which to learn and grow.
"We're open on snow days, during winter break—whenever school is out, we're open," says Kowalk-Thompson. "That's significant. Lots of parents, grandparents and caregivers come in and say 'I don't know what I would do if you weren't here." Youth development activities support attitudes, behaviors and skills that foster success in the classroom, the workforce and world.
The Lansing club serves more than 5,200 at-risk youth aged 7 to 18 annually with the help of 9 full-time staff, 14 part-time staff, and more than 200 volunteers. Membership is $10 per child per year. The Jackson Teen Zone will complement and expand the existing 25,000 square foot facility that includes age-specific rooms and common areas like gyms, study areas and game rooms.
Construction for the new space is projected to cost about $715,000, and will be funded through Jackson's lead gift, a $100,000 technology grant and individual donor gifts.
Source: Sandra Kowalk-Thompson, Director of Development, Boys and Girls Club of Lansing
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
Got a story idea for Capital Gains? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Once Upon A Child resale outlet to open in Delta

Anyone with kids knows they seem to grow an inch overnight, transforming that new pair of jeans into ill-fitting capris, or that long-sleeved shirt into a quarter-sleeve fashion.
A new franchise in Lansing's Delta Township has a solution for keeping kids in stylish clothes without having to lay-out high-end prices. At Once Upon A Child, customers will find gently used kids clothes for newborns through tweens, as well as high-quality used toys, baby equipment and furniture.
Co-owner Lisa Starks says the store focuses on buying and reselling used children clothing and gear from individuals in the community. All clothing must be freshly cleaned and laundered, and free of rips, holes or tears, while all equipment and toys must meet voluntary and mandatory safety standards.  
"It's great because you can sell something to us for a fair price, or buy something in the store that still looks new," says Starks. "Unlike a consignment shop, sellers are paid immediately. And if you buy, you'll save a lot of money, too."
Starks and co-owner Patty Roberts acquired the space at 5827 W. Saginaw Highway in February after attending extensive training at the Once Upon A Child franchise headquarters in Minnesota. Since then, the two have worked to ready the 4,000-square foot space in the Delta Center Plaza for a mid-May opening.
"Being a mom, I can appreciate the store concept," says Starks, who has two children under 9 years old. "It provides a great value for buyers and sellers."
The new Once Upon a Child is one of about 12 Michigan franchise locations, as well as nearly 300 other franchise stores in the U.S. and Canada. Starks says she is planning to hire 15 to 20 staff. All staff, she says, will be thoroughly trained as merchandise buyers, and will assess and price items according to criteria set by the franchise headquarters.
Source: Lisa Starks, Co-owner, Once Upon A Child
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
Got a story idea for Capital Gains Development News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Brain Balance of Lansing supports learning or behavior challenged kids

Parents seeking solutions for kids struggling with learning or behavior issues may find additional support through a new center in Okemos.
Brain Balance of Lansing began welcoming students last November to their 3,000-square foot, multi-room facility at 2325 Jolly Road. The achievement center franchise provides programs to children with ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, OCD, and disorders related to behavior, sensory processing or learning. The Brain Balance program addresses the whole child by integrating sensory motor training, stimulation, and cognitive activities with nutritional and dietary guidelines, and is completely drug-free.
"Our program is always individualized," says Carole Woodward, owner of Brain Balance Lansing. "Children start at their level of functioning and have a positive experience here. We set them up to succeed."
Brain Balance students commit to 36 one-hour sessions over three months with about five to 10 minutes of home-based daily exercises during and after the program. Students divide their time between academic and sensory activities with ongoing support provided for up to 12 months following their graduation from the program.
"We don't just take care of symptoms," says Woodward. "We take care of the issues by focusing on the root of the child's problem."
Brain Balance of Lansing is among 75 achievement centers across the U.S., including centers in Kalamazoo and Birmingham, Mich. About 20 students age 5 through 18 are currently enrolled at the Okemos center, and are served by Woodward, her business partner Patrick Rowley, and five staff.
Brain Balance was founded a decade ago by Robert Melillo, a chiropractic neurologist and researcher. Melillo is also the author of "Disconnected Kids," a book that outlines the approach used through his learning franchise.
Source: Carole Woodward, Owner, Brain Balance of Lansing
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
Got a story idea for Capital Gains Development News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Inventive family opens We Love Kids N Dogs in Meridian Mall

Artists, writers and filmmakers have long recognized the nearly symbiotic relationship between kids and dogs. And while Chris Allen's creativity leans toward business, the bond between fidos and children inspired his family's newest venture in the Meridian Mall.
Allen and his spouse Melissa opened We Love Kids N Dogs about a month before the start of the holiday season. The unique boutique and gift store features products for kids that encourage creativity and entrepreneurship, and curates a variety of pet products from small businesses not typically found in larger pet stores.
Allen says he got the idea for We Love Kids N Dogs after traveling to pet industry product expos. He and Melissa had taken to the road to promote the Poochie Bowl—a uniquely designed water and food bowl made in Lansing and invented by the Allen family.
"We met the creators of so many unique products, and realized we were all small business owners that didn't have the cache to get into a big box store yet," says Allen. "At that point, we decided we needed to do something to bring all these products back to Lansing."
After his travels, Allen mapped out a concept and took it to the Meridian Mall. A few months later, Allen found himself contacting folks he had met through expos, and bringing in products that include custom doggy coats, organic dog cookies, hand made leashes, ribbons and bows, and other one-of-a-kind pet accessories.
The 1,000-square foot space in the Macy's wing also features kids products and toys rooted in STEM curriculum. The goal, Allen says, is to offer products that can support a child's curiosity and natural play, while encouraging them to build, innovate and create.
"We want to help cultivate that mindset of building and engineering and being creative," says Allen. "That's where we got our start—by inventing a product—so we want to inspire kids to see where they can take things, too."
We Love Kids N Dogs carries about 35 product lines. The Allens staff the store with help from family members. After the holidays, Allen says he plans to create three to five jobs, and assess the possibility of opening a second store in Greater Lansing. 
Source: Christopher Allen, Owner, We Love Kids and Dogs
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Kick It Out Dance Studio relocates to bigger space, continues to add staff

Denise Krumm knew her dance business had kicked into high gear when her customers lined the hallways, waiting for the next class.
"I looked at my husband and said, 'we're packed in here like sardines,'" she says. "I knew we needed to expand."
In October, Krumm unveiled the new, expanded location for Kick It Out Dance Studio at 1760 E. Grand River Ave., in East Lansing. Just a mile or so from her original studio on Haslett Road, the new space more than doubles the studio's square footage from 1,000 to 2,200, and enables Krumm to continue offering dance and fitness programs to students of all ages and abilities.
Krumm launched Kick It Out Dance in July 2012. Starting her own studio was a natural progression in her life-long pursuit of dance and allowed her to coach, teach and educate others in the art of dance.
Kick It Out started with 14 students. In the second year Krumm counted  35. In 2014, 63 students came to Krumm's studio for courses in jazz, hip hop, tap, lyrical, contemporary and ballet, as well as fitness courses and workouts in Zumba, Zumba Toning, pound fit, and PiYo. Courses are tailored for students ages 2 through adult, and can follow both recreational and competitive pathways.
"Everybody has something to offer and to bring to the program," says Krumm. "That's part of our philosophy. I came from a very family-oriented studio and try to carry that through with my own business."
Krumm painted her new studio in her signature colors of dark purple and neon green. The bright, airy space includes two studio rooms with custom-built sprung dance sub floors, additional studios with Harlequin Cascade Marley floors, a spacious lobby, and rooms for students to do homework and store their personal items. Visitors and waiting parents can enjoy music, television and WiFi in the lobby.
"People just love the new studio," says Krumm. "It's a nice feeling to hear people say 'wow, this is nice.'"
The studio has added six employees since opening two years ago. The current staff of 13 includes six dance instructors, two assistant dance instructors and five fitness instructors.
Source: Denise Krumm, Owner and Director, Kick It Out Dance Studio
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Long-time dance studio moves to new South Lansing location

Sixty-three years and three generations later, Patsy Watson is still dancing.
She just leaves the management of her dance studio to her daughter.
"My mom said that God gave her the gift to dance and teach," says Rhonda Mitchell, owner of Patsy Watson School of Dance. "And she's still doing it at the age of 83."
After six decades, the south Lansing dance studio still produces some of the area's finest dancers and provides instruction to people of all skills and abilities, ages 3 to 103. In early October, the studio underwent a major change by opening the doors on a new location just a mile or so from its original home. The 3,980-square-foot building at 3808 S. Cedar Street is about 600 square feet bigger than their old location, and features three rooms, waiting areas, and two-way mirrors so parents can watch their kids during class.
Mitchell says the new space allows the studio to continue to flourish and to offer classes like ballet, tap, modern, jazz, hip-hop, ballroom, Zumba and turbo kick. The studio also teaches cheer, acrobatics, mini-gymnastics, and provides after school care for neighborhood kids. About 180 students are enrolled.
"I'm investing in my children and grandchildren by purchasing a building for our studio," says Mitchell. "It's a family business, through and through."
Mitchell says her mother opened the Patsy Watson School of Dance in Lansing in 1951 with $500 and passion for teaching dance. Her mom, she says, was born in Lansing, but her grandfather moved the family to England when Patsy was just 5. Although her family endured the challenges of living in Europe during World War II, Patsy still received a solid dance education that she brought back to the U.S. when she turned 18.
"My mom started all this," says Mitchell. "We're just following in her footsteps."
Like her mother, Mitchell grew up dancing. Her daughter Vanessa did too. And now, Mitchell's infant grandchild, Lola, will more than likely dance as soon as she learns to walk.
"We're using the gift that God gave us," says Mitchell. "We don't charge a lot because we want children to have the chance to dance."
Source: Rhonda Mitchell, Owner, Patsy Watson School of Dance
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Mother & Earth Baby Boutique offers pop-up space to local mompreneur

Lynn Ross is coming up on the second year of a brick-and-mortar location for an on-line business she started during her first pregnancy. And like her two children, Mother & Earth Baby Boutique continues to grow with every passing week.
While many of the changes for the retailer of eco-friendly merchandise for expectant moms, infants and toddlers involve new products, some also involve promoting fellow "mompreneurs" through her 1,000 square-foot store at 4601 W. Saginaw Highway.
"We just got to talking about how we both wanted to do more mom-to-mom sales," says Ross of her friend and fellow Lansing business owner Amy Mills. "I told her she could set up and bring her products in a couple times of month, and we decided we could both advertise and promote each other."
Beginning in early summer, Ross set aside "pop-up" space for Mills to display the gently used, up-scale clothing she vends through Molly & Oliver's—an on-line resale business. It was a way, Ross says, that she could support another business-minded mom and continue to grow a network of entrepreneurs serving Greater Lansing families.
In addition to providing pop-up space for Molly & Oliver's, Ross also provides instructional space for low- or no-cost classes. Local professionals facilitate sessions on cloth diapering and the use of other eco-friendly products, while parenting groups occasionally reserve the space for meetings or events.
In keeping with her community focus, Ross is hosting a Family Fun Fest on Sunday, Sept. 14, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to celebrate the second anniversary of her storefront. It's also a chance, she says, to say thanks to her more than 2,000 customers, and to help promote other businesses and services through family-focused activities.
"I want to be a pillar in the community for natural items so people don't have to worry that what they get here could be a problem for them," says Ross. "Coming in here is definitely not like walking into a big box store."
Ross owns and operates Mother & Earth Baby Boutique with her sister-in-law Tammy Ross.
Source: Lynn Ross, Owner, Mother & Earth Baby Boutique
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Little Green Branches grows eco-conscious product lines for new families

As a mother of four children under 9, Missie Baldwin appreciates the ease and convenience of disposable diapers. At the same time, she hates the idea of trading green space for landfills every time she changes a diaper.
Baldwin switched to cloth diapers when her third child was born. Her friend, Stephanie White, owned Z-Bear—a store that specialized in eco-conscious baby products, including 21st century cloth diapers.
"Cloth diapers are a lot simpler than they seem," says Baldwin. "They're just as easy to use as disposables, and the only thing that it will add to your routine is one extra load of laundry a day."
Baldwin became such an expert that she bought Z-Bear from her friend and launched her career in retail. In June, she re-opened the 900-square foot boutique at 4976 Northwind Drive under the name Little Green Branches. She expanded the scope of the store to carry eco-conscious products for infants through pre-schoolers, and added a special section for moms.
"I'm looking to take the store to the next level," says Baldwin who recently hired three part-time people. "We'll even be providing a registry for new and expectant moms."
Little Green Braches sells cloth diapers and offers a cloth diaper rental program for newborns. Packages include fitted diapers and covers, a pail liner, and a special deep cleaning detergent. Customers rent and use diapers for a limited time and return them. Diapers are then washed and hygienically cleaned for use by the next family.
"Cloth diapers are extremely economical," says Baldwin. "It may seem like an upfront investment, but if you add up the cost of disposables, it will run you almost $3,000. You can get enough cloth diapers for about $200."
Aside from diapering systems, Baldwin carries baby wearing and breast feeding products, non-toxic toys, up cycled furniture, and a line of natural teas, herbs and soaps—some even made by Baldwin from products grown on her small organic farm. 
"I plan on having a dad department, too," says Baldwin. "I'm working on the products to put in there. It's coming soon."
Source: Missie Baldwin, Owner, Little Green Branches
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Web-based consignment shop curates upscale kids clothing

Two life events pushed Amy Mills to start her own business. The first was fostering and adopting an infant. The second was breast cancer.
"We had just started fostering Jeremy when we found out," says Mills, who has been cancer-free for six months. "The two things really pushed me to do something I had always wanted to do, and everyone was confident I could."
In March, Mills launched Molly & Oliver's Children's Upscale Resale with the guidance of the Capital Region Small Business Development Center. With local partners in Lansing and Portland, the web-based consignment shop curates children's clothing for newborns through tweens.
"When you're home taking care of kids you don't have time to go shopping," says Mills, who came up with the tag line 'live well, dress well' after reflecting on the challenges of building a wardrobe for her son. "Plus, it's hard to find nice clothes without having to spend a fortune."
Mills leveraged her professional photography skills to create the boutique website that showcases name brand and designer clothing like Baby Gap, Abercrombie Kids, Carter's, Jumping Beans, Ralph Lauren and Polo. Consignees can drop-off items at Mother & Earth Baby Boutique at 4601 W. Saginaw St. in Lansing, or at Distinctive Occasions at 160 Kent St. in Portland. Consignees receive 40 percent of the sales, and anything that doesn't sell is donated to A New Beginning Pregnancy Center in Charlotte.
Mills says if her business continues to grow, she may consider setting up a brick-and-mortar shop or moving into a space in one of her partner stores. For now, her base of operations is her home in Mulliken.
"Currently, my husband's man-cave has been turned into Molly & Oliver's," she says. "And as much as he'd like his man-cave back, he's been very supportive."
Source: Amy Mills, Owner, Molly & Oliver's Children's Upscale Resale
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

New patio duals as gathering space and fundraising venue for Fenner Conservancy

A gift by two Lansing philanthropists has paved the way for community members to support programs of Fenner Nature Center and Conservancy brick-by-brick.
Dedicated April 19, the Davis Patio enables visitors to contribute to Fenner by purchasing paver bricks that can be engraved with personal messages and re-laid in the structure.
"One hundred percent of the proceeds go right to Fenner to deliver high quality education and park stewardship programs," says Katie Woodhams, program manager of Fenner Nature Center. "We have the potential to raise half a million dollars if we sell every brick."
Fenner supporters Susan and Jack Davis donated funds to build the patio that overlooks the center's pond and butterfly garden. The patio features a campfire ring as the centerpiece, and provides a gathering spot for school-aged children, day-campers, community members or families or friends to enjoy educational, recreational or other organized social activities. 
"It's a great place to sit back and relax and see all the wildlife," says Woodhams. "We are forever grateful to Susan and Jack for making this possible."
The Fenner Nature Center and Conservancy at 2020 E. Mount Hope Ave. consists of 134 acres with four miles of trails. Located in the heart of the city, Fenner's mission is to connect people to nature through conservation, education and stewardship.
"Every one who comes out here experiences a calming feeling," says Woodhams. "It's all about reconnecting with the natural world. It's hard to find time to do that, but when we do, it makes a difference in our day."
Among the projects supported by the Davis Patio and associated fundraising is the restoration of 19 acres of land as native Michigan prairie. Admission to the park is free, with summer camp registration underway for school-age children.
Source: Katie Woodhams, Program Manager, Fenner Nature Center
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Veteran pediatrician founds first-of-its-kind ADHD center in Lansing

Now that he has cut back to working part-time, Dr. Lewis D. Resnick has time to devote full attention to serving a population with special needs.
In August 2013, the semi-retired pediatrician opened the Great Lakes ADHD Center within Great Lakes Pediatric Associates at 3400 Pine Tree Road in Lansing. It's a center, Resnick says, that focuses solely on diagnostics, care and education related to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder—a condition that can apply to children and adults who have difficulty paying attention, whether they are hyperactive or not. Resnick's ADHD center is the first resource of its type in Greater Lansing.
"There is a drastic shortage across the country for specialists or child psychiatrists, and a waiting list of months even for people with strong insurance," says Resnick. "That's one reason why I didn't retire. I felt there were a lot of people and families out there who need help."
Resnick has practiced pediatrics since the 1970s, and has lived in Michigan since 1977. He joined Great Lakes Pediatrics in 2012 after working at Blue Care Network and in private practice in Mason.
Throughout his career, Resnick has kept a watchful eye on ADHD treatment and trends. What he's discovered, he says, is how well some kids respond to specific care, and how some go from struggling or failing in school to being very successful.
"What that said to me is that these kids were doing better than anyone thought," he says. "Once they got help, they could demonstrate that they had been learning and could learn well."
Resnick's goal is to erase misunderstandings about ADHD, and to help families address individual needs within particular situations, particularly school. As part of his practice, Resnick regularly works with Greater Lansing school districts to help educators reorient their techniques for students who exhibit ADHD traits, and to help teachers devise strategies that build on a student's strengths.
"Cutting back from practicing general pediatrics has allowed me the time to talk with schools and to correspond with people about their ADHD concerns," Resnick says. "That's something I couldn't do with my regular practice."
The Great Lakes ADHD Center is currently taking new patients and is available for consultation.
Source: Dr. Lewis D. Resnick, founder, Great Lakes ADHD Center
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

St. Johns mom opens gym to get kids out of house and moving

Like a lot of moms with kids, Casie Grams was bouncing off the walls when snow, ice and freezing temperatures kept her family confined to the great indoors.
In January, Grams decided to take that pent-up energy elsewhere and opened PowerPlay Kids Fun & Fitness in St. Johns for kids ages 10 months through fifth grade.
"I see it giving children an outlet aside from being stuck at home inside," says Grams who has three children under 12. "Everything here is designed to build confidence. It's a non-competitive environment and meant to be fun."
The 1,600-square foot gym at 701 W. State Street is set up to accommodate a variety of activities, including gymnastics, indoor soccer, hockey, basketball, tennis, relays, playground games and more. Grams herself oversaw the light remodeling of the previous sports retail store, including laying new carpet, painting and making it "kid friendly" by bringing in equipment that includes a 25-foot Air Trak, balance beam, tumbling mats, gymnastics bars and stationary bikes.
"I also have a variety of other things like hula-hoops," say Grams whose background and certification is in gymnastics. "Every week we'll have a different theme."
PowerPlay offers several five-week classes that are set up according to ages, grades and siblings. She also offers a boys-only class and open gym twice a week. Parent participation is required for children 3 ½ or under.
"Eventually, I hope to expand and offer more classes," says Grams who runs the classes with the help of her mother and her nephew. "I just wanted to start somewhere."
In addition to 20 different classes and open gym, PowerPlay offers parent's night out, birthday parties and camps.
"It's an outlet," says Grams. "It's something fun to do and can help combat obesity. My goal is to just encourage a healthy lifestyle for kids."
Source: Casie Grams, Owner, PowerPlay Kids Fun & Fitness
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Eye Level Learning Center focuses on after school enrichment

Parents looking to reinforce what their kids learn in school will find an additional resource for unlocking academic potential through the new Eye Level Learning Center in Okemos.
"As our motto says, we are the key to supporting the educational needs of your kids," says Dr. Prashanti Boinapally, center director. "Our curriculum is unique and kids enjoy doing it."
Eye Level Learning is a leading provider of supplemental educational programs in math and English. The self-directed coursework matches national curriculum standards for students ages 3 through 16, and is completed after school in classrooms with low student-to-instructor ratios. Students progress at their own pace in classes with a mixture of ages and grades.
The 1,200-square foot facility includes three brightly colored classrooms, a kitchen, office space and a waiting area for parents. One-hour classes run after school on Tuesday and Thursday, and on Saturday mornings. Most students attend classes once a week and do homework on the days in between.
Prashanti and her husband decided to bring the national educational franchise to Okemos to broaden the area's options for challenging, after school programs. Her two children, ages 12 and 6, currently take courses through Eye Level.
"Eye Level supplements what kids learn in school," says Prashanti. "The curriculum emphasizes critical thinking, so students are taught how to apply what they learn."
The Okemos Eye Level Learning Center at 3536 Meridian Crossings, Suite 210,  officially opened in November, with a grand opening scheduled February. The center employs five teachers and looks to add up to five more in 2014.
Source: Dr. Prashanti Boinapally, Center Director, Eye Level Learning
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Teen center double size, adds skatepark in new Mason location

Mason-area teens now have more room to explore their interests in a safe environment now that the non-profit Building Twentyone has expanded to a new location. The teen center includes drop-in space, tutoring, and now, a skate park. 
"We have a whole lot more room," says Benjamin Schartow, who founded Building Twentyone a few years ago. "It's just two miles down the street, but it's a great location, right on a lake."
The original Building Twentyone shared a 3,000 square foot space with other tenants, but the new, N. Cedar St. location is 7,000 square feet in size and is dedicated just to the teen center. The new skate park inside not only adds a new attraction to the center, but also creates a revenue source for the non-profit. 
"The students really love it," Schartow says of the 30 to 40 students who regularly come to the teen center. "We just opened the skatepark in November, and we've had a lot of positive feedback."
The new location opened in Sept., and also includes a new computer lab, stocked with computers donated by Delta Dental. Remodeling work was made possible through a grant from the Capital Region Community Foundation. While Building Twentyone is a non-religious organization, they have partnered with Journey Life Church, which is their new landlord.
Schartow is looking forward to expanding Building Twentyone's programming in the new location, including arts, poetry and DJ workshops. 

Source: Benjamin Schartow, Building Twentyone
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Haslett enrichment center to bring afterschool activites to area families

As anyone with kids active in extra curricular activities knows, weekday evenings can be hectic. In helping with her six grandchildren, Debra Ellis experienced the hustle from school to practices to recitals firsthand, and felt that something should be done to make life easier on parents and to create more opportunities for family time. 

"I thought there has to be a better way," says Ellis. "So we started to write this curriculum for this program a few years ago. It was all to give family time back."

The result was the Children's Enrichment Center in Haslett, a place where children can enroll in classes and activities immediately after school, so parents can pick them up after work with their activities and homework completed. 

The 4,000 square foot facility is accessibly to both local elementary schools and will offer dance, martial arts, music and art classes, as well as rotating activities. Classes will begin in January, and enrollment for up to 50 students has begun. A grand opening will take place for the public this friday. 

Initially, Ellis will work with six contracted instructors and three employees at the Children's Enrichment Center. As the organization, which has applied for non-profit status, take up only two-thirds of the building, Ellis hopes to see their presence there grow. She also plans to add one new Children's Enrichment Center per year in new communities in the future. 

Source: Debra Ellis, The Children's Enrichment Center
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Children's Therapy Corner brings kid-focused therapy to Okemos

Children may look like little adults, but when it comes to physical, occupational and speech therapy, their needs are very different. That's the foundation upon which Midland-based Children's Therapy Corner has been built, and it's what families can expect to find in the company's third location, which recently opened in Okemos. 
"We specialize, we train, and we send our therapists to conferences on children's therapy," says Matthew Bartels, Children's Therapy Corner's Lansing director and speech and language pathologist. "Our therapists do nothing but kids, so they're really good at it." 
Kids have different therapy needs, says Bartels, because unlike adults, they are both healing and growing. Though an adult may need to re-learn how to walk after an injury, a child may be learning to walk for the first time. 
"It's a whole different approach," Bartels says. "It's about getting down on the floor with the kids and having fun."
The Children's Therapy Corner in Okemos opened in a 3,000 square foot Woodlake Dr. space on Aug. 19. The large space appealed to the business because of its high ceilings and ability to house climbing ropes, crashpads, swings and other equipment that offers children both fun and therapeutic benefits. 
The office currently employs a staff of five. Bartels says he hopes the offices will continue to grow, offer families in the Lansing areas a kind of therapy experience, and eventually expand into a new, custom-built facility, similar to their Traverse City and Midland locations. 

Source: Matthew Bartels, Children's Therapy Corner's Lansing 
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

New Teen Zone gives Ele's Place teens a place to interact and heal

As anyone who knows a teenager knows, teens like to have their own space to hang out. Thanks to four years of hard work and $75,000 worth of donations and volunteer labor, Ele's Place can now offer their teens exactly that. 
"It's very exciting. Our teens are thrilled," says Managing Director of Lansing's Ele's Place Lori Bosch, "They can't wait to get in there and get going on some hands on the activities."
Ele's Place celebrated a ribbon cutting on their new Teen Zone yesterday, unveiling a renovated space in the lower level of their W. Oakland Ave. facility where teens can interact, role play, use technology-based communications and express themselves through art and music. 
"All of those physical experiences, gives them a way to express themselves with other teens who understand what they're going through," says Bosch. "They form strong relationships and trust while they're interacting together."
Though space for these types of activities had been previously available for younger children, the healing center for grieving kids has been working for years to create the same environment for teens. Bosch says the renovation was a true community effort with donated labor and a generous cash donation from Celink. 
Ele's Place is always looking for more volunteers, and those interested may contact the organization for information on volunteer training. 

Source: Lori Bosch, Ele's Place
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Buttons and Beanstalks brings kiddie chic to Williamston

As a stay-at-home mom, Danielle Mackay loved to shop for her kids at children's boutiques, but kept running into the same problem: there just weren't enough options for boys. As both of Mackay's children are boys, this posed a problem for a boutique shopper like herself that she was determined to solve. Her answer was opening Buttons and Beanstalks.
"I do everything one-for-one between girls and boys," says Mackay. "I carry a lot of accessories that are really hard to find. I hand-make a lot of the hair ties and ties for little boys."
The children's boutique began online about a year ago, and has now expanded into a physical shop in Williamston's Keller Plaza. The new Buttons and Beanstalks opened on April 13 in a 220 square foot shop.
"I like that it is all indoors," Mackay says. "The size of the space is perfect."
Mackay now operates the shop on limited hours, but hopes to soon expand into full retail hours. She anticipates hiring up to three employees once Button and Beanstalks has expanded its hours. 

Source: Danielle Mackay, Buttons and Beanstalks
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Vortex Midwest opens Williamston office, adding up to three jobs

If you’re a frequent visitor to playgrounds in Michigan, you’ve probably noticed a trend spreading throughout the state: splashpads. 
“Splashpads have been a hot item,” says Cory Anderson, owner and general manager of Williamston’s new Vortex Midwest office. “We have over 115 splashpads in Michigan and over 350 in the Midwest.”
Though affiliated with Montreal-based Vortex Aquatic Structures International, the new local business is owned and operated by Anderson and provides service and customer support to those many splashpads. 
Andreson opened the business out of his home in January of 2012, and it quickly grew to the point of needing staff and office space. Four months ago, Vortex Midwest officially opened it’s Grand River location in Williamston. Anderson currently has one staff member is looking to quickly add two more. 
“I moved in, and the landowner was very nice and gave me the possibility of expanding into more space,” says Anderson of the 600 square foot office and 1,500 square feet of storage space he currently occupies, “and it looks like I’m going to be needing it sooner than later. Things are just kind of booming.”

Assistance dog training non-profit opens Grand Ledge storefront

In her work with students with physical and cognitive needs at Lansing’s Beekman Center, Dr. Nikki Kersey witnessed a notable difference in children’s development when interacting with dogs. 
“The kids would talk to the dogs or throw the ball to the dogs, which helped them reach some of their goals,” says Kersey. “We started thinking that these goals are usually worked on at home with their parents too, so why can’t they have dogs at home to help them do that?” 
That inspired Kersey to help connect families who could benefit from such interaction to well-trained assistance dogs. Seven years ago, Great Lakes Assistance Dogs, or G.L.A.D. was born in Kersey’s living room. 
“My partner and I are social workers, and we work with the families who work with the dogs,” says Kersey. “Nobody else offers that. When a person calls us to get started, we pair them up with puppies and start them in the bonding process right away.”
Though the non-profit started out slowly, Kersey says it was about two years ago when the phone really began to ring. The increase in need has led to growth in the organization, and now G.L.A.D. is celebrating its new 1,000 square foot storefront in Grand Ledge. 
G.L.A.D. is always looking for volunteer puppy raisers, and relies nearly entirely on volunteers and donations. The new Grand Ledge location allows for the organization to rent space to a dog groomer, who also donates a portion of her profits back to G.L.A.D.
Kersey plans to continue to grow G.L.A.D. and provide assistance dogs to families in need. The cost to raise each dog is estimated at $25,000, and families are asked to contribute $12,500 for their dog. Kersey hopes to eventually provide dogs to families at no cost.

Nexus Academy to bring blended learning, 12 jobs to 15,000 sq ft high school

After being one of the first two cyber charter schools allowed in Michigan in 2010, Connections Education noticed that for all the added benefits of online learning, some of their students were looking for a little something more. 
“It’s known as blended learning,” says Mickey Revenaugh, executive vice president at Connections Education. “It’s where you’re combining online education, with all its personalization and flexibility, and in person education, with all the guidance that brings.” 
Connections Education is now using the blended learning format to create two new high schools in Michigan, one in Grand Rapids and the other in Okemos. Revenaugh is providing technical assistance to the board of the Nexus Academy of Lansing.
“Michigan is known nationally as having a really robust charter school landscape,” says Revenaugh. “We found that there are quite a few really high quality charter schools in the area, but not a lot of high school options.”
The new, 15,000 square foot school will be located on University Park Drive in a building previously utilized for offices and is currently undergoing $300,000 in renovations. The school will have an open floor plan without traditional walls and will include such features as a fitness center and lounge with couches for students to use during their online courses.
Nexus Academy of Lansing will be rolling up to 250 high school students this fall. Twelve instructors will be employed to work on-site, and students will benefit from an online community of more than 50 virtual instructors. 

AL!VE set to open final, 20,000 sq ft phase, add 20 jobs in December

After five years of planning and development and a year after its first phase opened its doors, Hayes Green Beach Memorial Hospital will celebrate the completion of AL!VE’s second and final phase this December in Charlotte. The community health and well-being facility has already received 65,000 visits to the 45,000 square foot location and is looking forward to even more visitors and expanded programming when it opens the additional 20,000 square feet of space this year. 
“The mission of AL!VE is to enhance the overall heath and vitality of the region. Expanding the indoor walking path, adding more conference space and making AL!VE more accessible to families by offering childcare will further allow us to reach our mission,” says Patrick Sustrich, MS, director of health and wellness services at HGB. “Additionally, moving HGB's existing wellness center to AL!VE will increase traffic into the building and provide a tremendous expansion of programs and services available to these members.”
The new area will include a child development area, locker rooms, fitness center and conference space offering a boardroom and two additional meeting rooms. Forty workers are currently employed at AL!VE, and an additional 20 will be added with the opening of the new phase.
Sustrich notes that the truly community-minded facility is, and will continue to be open and free to the public. 
“Things such as indoor walking, rock climbing, social and gathering spaces, etc. are free to everyone,” he says. “Additional classes and programs are offered on a fee per service basis.  These programs include, but are not limited to, cooking classes, spa treatments, clinical services and a healthy eating cafe.”

$2.1M Live, Learn, Lead Academy development to teach entrepreneurship, add 15 jobs

A lot of people don’t start receiving bank statements until after they’ve stopped receiving report cards. At the new Learn, Live, Lead Entrepreneurial Academy on West Miller Road in Lansing, students will receive both. 
“Every child inside of our school will have jobs,” says founder, Paula Diane Cunningham “They will apply for it, and they will interview. In addition to a report card, they will get bank statements. They have to understand that time is money. There are no excuses in this school.”
Cunningham is a former president of Lansing Community College and CEO of Capital National Bank. Cunningham says the school, which meets all Michigan certifications for K-6 schools, will be a free public institution  for students and parents who want a rigorous learning environment. 
“It is for students who want to be in an environment with high expectations and students who are creative,” says Cunningham. “Students will each have their own learning plans.”
The innovative academy will be held inside a former church. The 134,000 square foot building was purchased for $1.35 million and is currently undergoing $750,000 million in renovations. Enrollment is underway now, and Cunningham plans to admit 140 K-6 students the first year. Twelve to 15 staff will be employed for the new school. An affiliated high school is planned for the future.
“It’s been a labor and a journey of love,” Cunningham of the academy’s development. “We believe students needs more entrepreneurial skills and the tenants of entrepreneurialism should be beginning early on.”

Goldfish Swim School to open in Okemos, add 25 jobs

Future swimmers and their parents will soon have a new option for getting their bearings in the deep end. The Birmingham, Michigan-based Goldfish Swim School will be opening a location in Okemos soon.
“We are really excited to be moving into the Lansing area,” says Rebecca Burlingame, general manager of Goldfish. “We have a very specialized curriculum that has been proven. The instructors are very well trained, and are passionate about swimming and getting children the swim skills necessary for confidence.”
Goldfish accepts children from four months through 12 years of age and teaches them to swim in a 90 degree pool set in a 92 degree environment. Goldfish currently operates five locations and will soon expand to ten, including the Okemos facility.
The Okemos Goldfish will be located in an 8,000 square foot facility near Meridian Mall and will employ 25 workers upon opening, with a goal of reaching 45 after a year and a half of operations. Burlingame expects renovations to be complete in time for a late winter opening.
“We’re going to have to dig a pool,” she says. “And we have really unique, tropical décor for our facilities, so we’ll be making it look like our other locations.” 

Kick It Out Competitive Dance to open in 1,000 square foot East Lansing studio, adding four jobs

Denise Krumm wants Lansing area dancers to unlearn some of the lessons they may have retained about competitive dance on shows like Dance Moms. 
“I‘ve seen way too many children and adults turned away because someone says, ‘You’re not good enough,’” Krumm says. “I think if you have your heart and soul in it, there is a spot for everybody.”
Krumm’s new Kick it Out Competitive Dance will give all dancers the chance to compete. The new dance studio will place all students into appropriate levels so everyone from children to adults can learn dance, as well as enjoy the fun of competing. 
“I had been coaching dance for over 15 years. I’ve been coaching the ages form kindergarten through high school. I decided it was time for me to branch out and get into business for myself. I’ve got a really good staff behind me of teachers and instructors."
Krumm’s new studio will employ two instructors and two assistant instructors specializing in lyrical, jazz, hip-hop and pom dancing. 
“Our instructors are fantastic,” Krumm says. “They’re young, fresh and they know what they’re doing. They’ve done a lot of training, and I’ll also be sending them to additional trainings. I feel that they are going to pull in a lot of people because of their expertise and their enthusiasm.”
Kick it Out Competitive Dance will open on July 1 in a 1,000 square foot studio renovated by Krumm’s friends and family on Haslett Road in East Lansing

Little Scholars Preschool to add Mason location, up to 10 staff

Little Scholars Preparatory School just opened in Downtown Lansing in 2010, and already, the childcare center and preschool are full to capacity with a waiting list. Owner Audrey Pallone says that the focus on education and low ratios of children to staff have made the center a success. 
Pallone hopes to experience the same kind of success in DeWitt with Little Scholars North Campus, which recently opened in two classrooms of the former Gunnisonville Elementary School. The school was recently purchased by Brandino Properties, who will soon open a charter school to share the 26,000-square foot space. 
“We’re proving that continuum of care,” says Brandino Properties’ Tim Brannan of the site that will, in total, house the childcare center, charter school and an assisted living facility. “[Pallone’s] focus is getting these kids ready for kindergarten. Her area of expertise is development and early child development.”
Little Scholars North Campus is licensed for 38 students and maintains a one to four teacher-to-student ratio, which exceeds state requirement. At full capacity the center could employ up to 10 workers. The center serves children ages six weeks through six years of age.

Mathnasium brings specialized tutoring, adds four jobs to Okemos

When Joel Tillman was working as an alternative education and substitute teacher, he enjoyed working with the kids, but   he felt that there was something missing in the way in which he was able to meet their needs in the classroom. 
“I didn’t feel like I was able to reach as many kids as I could,” says Tillman. “With the restrictions on how classrooms are, there are always students who need more help, and then there are kids who are bored because they learn so quickly.”
That’s when Tillman came across the Mathnasium concept, a math tutoring franchise that allows students to learn in individualized ways that make sense to them. The center is designed for both students who need additional help to keep up, and gifted students who are ready to move ahead of their peers.
“They explain math in terms that students have already been exposed to,” Tillman says. “With this individualized approach, I can reach more kids and help them overcome their fear toward math.”
On June 18, Tillman will open the Lansing area’s first Mathnasium in a 1,200 square foot space within Jolly Oak Convenience Center at the northeast corner of Jolly and Okemos Roads. CBRE|Martin now reports that the center is at 100 percent occupancy.
“When I moved to Okemos, I got to know the community,” says Tillman. “I realized it was a community that cares about education.”
Tillman will hire four part-time instructors to help him run Mathnasium. Should the Okemos center be well received, he hopes to open additional Mathnasium centers in the future.

Eco-friendly baby goods store expands into new space, rebrands, adds four jobs

Stephanie White started Z Bear Diapers in Holt when her first child was a year old and the woman from whom she purchased her cloth diapers and accessories was moving out of town. 
“I honestly started the whole thing as a hobby,” White says. “When she moved, I decided to start up.”
The hobby grew into a business operation out of White's home, which then expanded into an office space in Holt. The business is now in a brand new location, with a new name and expanded inventory. The new location is next to Play and the East Lansing Food Coop. Little Green Branches celebrated its grand opening last week in its new 950 square foot spot. 
“It’s right next door to Play, which is the exact same market I want to be in,” says White. “We’re also so fortunate with the community gardens and the East Lansing Food Coop right here. It’s a fun little strip.”
In addition to cloth diapers, White now carries a variety of eco-friendly baby items, such as toys made from recycled plastic and cornstarch runoff, nursing covers and pads, reusable lunch kits and more. 
“The Okemos and East Lansing area is a community that is getting into the eco-friendly side of things,” White says. “I’m really excited about being here.”
With the opening of Little Green Branches, White has added four new part time positions to help staff the store. Eventually, she would like to expand her inventory to include more home goods and continue to grow into her new location. 

Your Creative Escape triples space with new downtown Eaton Rapids location

After being a stay-at-home mom for some time, Traci Lawson was itching to get back into the working world. One day, while driving through downtown Eaton Rapids, she saw a sign on a vacant storefront that said “For Lease, $700 per month.” 
“I said to my husband, ‘I think I can sell $700 of something in a month,’” Lawson says.
She was right. Lawson and her husband Jaime opened Your Creative Escape, a paint-your-own-pottery studio in March of 2011 and received such a positive response, they were running out of room. 
“We could seat 49 people in that store and we were very often full to the gills,” Lawson says. “I hated turning people away.”
Exactly one year after opening, Your Creative Escape has moved to a 3,000 square foot studio on Hall Street in downtown Eaton Rapids, tripling the business’ original footprint. Lawson attributes their extraordinary growth to the community atmosphere that has grown in the studio. 
“It’s like a big conversation,” says Lawson, “and there’s lots of laugher. It’s a fun environment. There are many people who didn’t know each other before and now it’s like a big family.”
Your Creative Escape is also a fun alternative to going to the bar for many local adults. The pottery studio is open until midnight on Fridays and features such fun events as Diva Night. The studio is currently working with the Island City Dog Park Club on a community fundraiser.

Mason church builds $1.7M recreation center for community

The idea began more than 15 years ago, and slowly but surely, the Mason First Church of the Nazarene has worked to raise funds and construct a 17,000 square foot Recreational Outreach Center for the community. 

“We started by asking the question, ‘What does the community need?’” says Lead Pastor for Mason First Church of the Nazarene Gerhard Weigelt. “We have a strong concern for the youth of today and wanted to provide strong places for the youth to develop.”
The new Recreational Outreach Center intends to do just that. Located on the church’s 45 acre property on West Dansville Road in Mason, the center includes a basketball court, computer lab, warming kitchen and large youth room. Weigelt says the church hopes to add a fitness room in the future. 

“Our tagline is ‘Rock Solid Fun,’” says Weigelt. “We’re excited about the journey we’re on and serving the community. We’re having a blast.” 

The approximately $1.7 million project broke ground in 2007, though fundraising began way back when the idea first developed 15 years ago. The congregation is raising all of the funds through donations above and beyond their regular giving to the church. 

The Recreational Outreach Center opened for use this spring. The church will continue to develop the property, looking first to outfit the computer lab with 10 to 15 workstations and tutoring services for students. Weigelt says the church has discussed adding outdoor baseball fields and other facilities to the property in the future.  

New Williamston Bead Works opens in Keller's Plaza

Keller’s Plaza in Williamston is quickly becoming a crafter’s paradise. Most recently, Williamston Bead Works, a new beading store, has opened in one of the upstairs suites, joining a handful of other craft businesses. 
“The ten different suites are all rented now,” says Carol Lacca, owner of Williamston Bead Works of Keller’s Plaza. “It surprised me when I got here it had so much. There is a lot of traffic up here now.”
Beginning in April, all of those visitors have the chance to buy beads, beaded crafts, jewelry supplies and  would also be able to take beading classes in Lacca’s new business. After teaching art and science for 30 years, Lacca put her energy into a new art form: beading. She sold her beadwork at a number of places and finally decided it was time to open a store of her own. 
“I couldn’t believe it, but I realized I had enough bead in my house to make a store out of,” she says. “I have all kinds of beads from the seed bead to the big beads and semi-precious stones.” 
In her 223 square foot store, Lacca offers classes, lectures, workshops and individual tutoring on beading. The former teacher especially loves working with kids and hopes her shop inspires more young people to enjoy beading.

Play brings 2600 sq ft of fun to East Lansing

When Holt native and MSU graduate Kasey Shoemaker had twin girls, she knew it was time to leave Chicago and come back to the Lansing area to be closer to her family. When she returned six months ago, however, she found something missing from her life as a mommy.
“I said, ‘What am I going to do with my two-year-olds?’” says Shoemaker. “I wanted a place on the east side for moms to meet and have some coffee while their kids play.”
It didn’t take her long to open the doors of Play, an eco-friendly indoor play area for kids on Northwind Drive in East Lansing.
“I wanted to be close the East Lansing Coop and the community garden,” says Shoemaker. “We got it up and running in a couple of months.”
Play is 2,600 square feet of open space with couches and coffee for parents and nature-based, Montessori-style activities for children from infants to six years old. The space features play houses, a miniature farmer’s market and the innovative Imagination Playground, a playscape made of large, movable blue blocks.
“They are usually only found in public institutions,” says Shoemaker. “The parents have had just was much fun with them as the children.”
Play opened just over a week ago, and Shoemaker reports the business was at capacity for the first two days. She already has birthday parties booking up in March.
“It’s been amazing,” she says. “The moms have been great,” she says. 

Old Town welcomes new store featuring old-time candy

Mandy Walton got a big idea from some little heads.

"My kids and I were walking in Old Town and they said to me, 'There's no candy store down here,'" says Walton.

With that, the new Lansing resident and mother of four and her husband Jason set about opening Walton's Old Town Candy Store. The new retail location carries nickel and dime candy on display in glass jars, as well as snacks and drinks.

"We have over 100 kinds of candy," says Walton. "Nothing is over a dollar. Have both old-fashioned candy and all the new stud the kids like the sour stuff. We have been keeping a list of candy people have been asking for, and we'll keep expanding what we have."

Walton hopes to eventually expand her services as well. The former Muskegon resident once owned a balloon and gift store specializing in wedding décor, and would like to continue those services by offering candy bars for special events.

Walton's Old Town Candy store opened in June, just a few months after the family moved to Lansing.

"We just like it down here in Old Town," says Walton. "I like the feeling of the area, and they're always having festivals. We thought it would be fun to have something down there for kids."

Local partnership creates unique new Mason Preschool and Child Care

The new Mason Preschool and Childcare on North Cedar is a partnership between to existing business owners who otherwise might have little in common. Sheryl Howard owns Dansville Preschool and Child Development Center, and Ryan Carter is the owner of Snap Fitness in Mason.

"Ryan wanted to be able to offer daycare to his gym members," says Deanna Mullin, director and lead teacher at the new Mason location. "We're unique because we offer flexible scheduling for families who may have difference work schedule, like nurses, construction workers or waitresses who don't' know their schedules in advance."

The new facility also offers drop-in hours for pre-registered clients who utilized the Snap Fitness next door.

"Our child develop philosophy is different too," says Mullin. "We use the Reggio approach, which encourages curiosity in children. We take their curiosity and expand upon it."

Mason Preschool and Childcare opened on June 13 and celebrated a ribbon cutting with the Mason Area Chamber of Commerce on July 20. The business currently employs three, and a new teacher is in the process of being hired. According to Mullin, when operating at full capacity, the facility could service 63 children and employ up to 20 workers.

MSU Children's Health Initiative to renovate facility with $10,000 grant

The staff of the MSU pediatric clinic at Sparrow Hospital want to make the experience of going through treatment easier on children and families.

“One bite at a time here, we’re trying to improve the quality and aesthetic for the children and the families who spend quite a lot of time here,” says Jan Quiring, Executive Director of the MSU Children's Health Initiative in the College of Human Medicine’s Pediatrics and Human Development department.

“An infusion can take hours. They get hungry and bored. The space we have now is very drab.”

The most recent help the clinic has received came in the form of a $10,000 grant from the Junior League of Lansing. The clinic plans to use the grant to purchase better infusion chairs, colorful abstract art, a children's table and chairs, better lighting, and, hopefully, a water feature.

“There is something very soothing about water features,” Quiring says, “and kids love water.”

The long-term vision of the Children’s Health Initiative founder Dr. Dele Davies is to go beyond small improvements to their existing facilities and create a single pediatric outpatient center for Mid-Michigan.

“With our services fragmented all over, it’s a burden on families,” says Quiring. “A lot of times people will have one doctor here and another in Ann Arbor. Our goal is to get the full complement of sub-specialists in one place.”

The current renovations of the MSU pediatric clinic are planned to be completed this summer.

Source: Jan Quiring, MSU Children's Health Initiative

Writer: Natalie Burg, News Editor

YMCA of Lansing Campaign Secures $2 Million to Renovate Four Local Facilities

After their most successful capital campaign of the past 50 years, the YMCA of Lansing raised $2 million which will be used for major renovations at its Oak Park, Parkwood, Westside and Mystic Lake Camp locations in the Capital region.

“This $2 million will be invested into four [of the] branches across Mid-Michigan, serving different communities, to get the most benefit out of the money being invested,” says Tony Fragale, president and CEO of the YMCA of Lansing.

“190 different donors contributed to this campaign," he adds, "which gives a great picture of the generosity of people . . . an impressive response to the Open Doors campaign during difficult economic times.”

The Open Doors capital campaign was launched three years ago in order to raise funds to improve facilities at YMCA of Lansing branches. As Fragale notes, the renovations will enable the YMCA of Lansing to expand its programs, keep pace with its growing membership and meet emerging needs within the community.

The work is expected to be completed at Oak Park, Parkwood and Westside around mid-December, in time for the New Year. The work at Mystic Lake is expected to begin sometime in January or February 2011.

Source: Erin Incarnati, Publicom

Writer: Suban Nur Cooley

Statewide Children’s Association Moves to 4,858 Sq Ft Space in Lansing

The Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children (MiAEYC) is moving from its Hagadorn location in East Lansing, to a 4,858 square foot space within the Capitol Commerce Center near the I-496 and Creyts Road interchange.

"We are excited about our move," says Keith Myers, executive director of MiAEYC. "The new location will allow us to provide enhanced services to the early childhood community."

The MiAEYC works with young children, their families and early childhood professionals to improve the education and welfare of children from birth through eight. This move will give them the space they need to facilitate programming and services better.

The nonprofit will move into its new space in November.

Source: Keith Myers, MiAEYC

Writer: Suban Nur Cooley

180 MSU Future Teachers Give Lansing's REO Elementary School a Makeover

A group of 180 Michigan State University (MSU) students and prospective teachers showed up at Lansing's REO Elementary School with paintbrushes and tools to give the Southside school a makeover.

On April 23 and 24, the students painted murals and hallways, landscaped and installed fixtures like coat racks and benches.

“They really did make us over. It was cool,” says REO fifth grade teacher, Diane Knapp. “This makes a big difference.”

The student work is part of the “Outreach to Teach” program, and all participants are members of the MSU chapter of the Student Michigan Education Association (SMEA), an organization specifically for prospective teachers.

Though the REO students saw the college students prepare the murals on Friday, Knapp says they were shocked to come to school on Monday and see their school aesthetically transformed. Besides the initial shock, Knapp says the students’ reaction has been nothing but positive.

Some of the upgrades include new plants and landscaping outside, a new sign out front and a whole lot of painting—including the office, book character and rocket (the school’s mascot) murals and a blue racing stripe through the hallways.

“It is much more lively here,” Knapp tells me as we stroll down the hallway.

Source: Diane Knapp

Writer: Andy Balaskovitz

Site Dedication Ceremony Supports New Barrier Free Playground at Potter Park

Lansing's Potter Park will have a few new additions in the future, including a Flippopotamus and a fish called the Big Kahuna. No, they are not being added to the Potter Park Zoo, but to the Park itself, and they are not animals, but playground structures.

CASE Cares, part of CASE Credit Union will host a site dedication for the barrier-free playground, to be built when the remaining funds are secured. "CASE Cares is in the process of raising money," says Kathy Devine of CASE Cares. "[We're] hoping to build next spring."

Devine says the site dedication is the first step in building the playground. The goal is to make the community aware that the project needs money.

She says the event is not a fundraiser, but that they are looking for donations. Those who donate have the option of naming parts of the playground, including the equipment. Devine says that sponsored equipment will feature a plaque bearing the name of the sponsor.

The focus of the playground is to built a play space for special needs children and their families. “It will have a special surface, spongy, easier for wheelchairs and walkers,” says Devine.

Source: Kathy Devine

Writer: Daniel J. Hogan

Burchfield Park in Holt Plans to Add New 100 Sq. Ft. Children's Garden

A new addition is coming to Burchfield Park in Holt: a Children's Garden. "The garden will be 100 sq. ft. and [will be] located near the toboggan hill," says Megan Allen, a naturalist at Burchfield Park.

The garden will be comprised of three raised beds, 3 ft. by 8 ft. each, and two play structures. Allen says that each of the beds will have a theme. One is a "Tomato Soup" bed, featuring a variety of vegetables. Another is a Butterfly/Hummingbird bed with plants designed to attract flying and crawling fauna, such as fennel and dill. The third bed is for "Fantastic Blooms," with unique flowers like Bleeding Hearts and Chinese Lanterns.

The play structures will feature Russian Mammoth sunflowers, which can grow up to 12 ft. in height, snapdragons and even edible nasturtiums.

Allen says the total cost of the garden will be less than $100, with most of that cost going toward seeds and tools.

"All the wood for the structures is reclaimed wood from around the park, and nearly all the soil and fertilizer have been donated by great community organizations such as the Get Mint Trading Company, Sundance Riding Stables, [and] the Greater Lansing Food Bank's Garden Project."

Source: Megan Allen

Writer: Daniel J. Hogan

New $1.5 Million Lansing City Market Will Celebrate Grand Opening This Saturday

After months of building, moving and planning, the Lansing City Market is celebrating the grand opening of its new home this Saturday, April 24. The new 11,000 sq. ft. building had a soft opening on Jan. 9, which drew 1,500 to 2,000 people.

The total cost of the project was $1.59 million, and the new market building houses more than 30 local businesses. It features longer hours, staying open until 7:00 p.m. on weeknights, with longer weekday hours implemented in order to lure in customers on their way home from working Downtown. The weekly schedule was also overhauled, switching to a Tuesday through Saturday schedule.

The grand opening on Saturday will feature live music as well as cooking and gardening demonstrations. There will be activities to keep children entertained, including face-painting and pie-eating contests on the schedule.

The future holds even more for the new City Market, as a riverfront restaurant is in the works. The proposed restaurant would feature designated seating both inside and outside.

The new market is home to several new vendors, including Iorio Italian Ice, City Fish and Sgt's Soups and Sandwiches, to name only a few.

Source: Lansing City Market

Writer: Daniel J. Hogan

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

Life in Lansing Website Creator Opens 1,600 Sq. Ft. Production Studio in Okemos

Life in Lansing, a website that promotes events and places around Lansing, has opened its own production studio.

The 1,600 sq. ft. space gives the Life in Lansing team a space to record video, audio and take photographs.

Marc Francoeur, one of the creators of Life in Lansing, describes the last few months as "busy, busy" and says that the website has been growing. He cites the addition of high school sports coverage behind the explosion in web traffic.

“High school sports has been huge. We had 4,000 hits one day,” says Francoeur. He adds that the average time visitors spend on the website is over five minutes.

The production studio is next to Francoeur's other business, MC Squared Technology Group, located in Okemos, and it features more than just studio space. "There is retail space in the front," where Francoeur says they will "sell locally produced things." The front retail space is about 25 ft by 15 ft. The rest of the location is used for the production studio.

The project “turned out better than expected," says Francoeur. "It looks like a real studio.” The rear of the studio will be used for podcast recording. Francoeur also says he has enough room for a live band and more than 30 audience members.

Source: Marcus Francoeur

Writer: Daniel J. Hogan

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

Fitzgerald Baseball Field in Downtown Grand Ledge Gets $19,930 Renovation

Baseball fans have something to cheer about: Fitzgerald Field, a ball diamond in downtown Grand Ledge, is being renovated.

"It hasn't been used much and has fallen into disrepair," says Kalmin Smith, Mayor of Grand Ledge, adding that more than two generations of Grand Ledge baseball players have used the diamond. The total cost of the project will be $19,930, with $14,950 of that amount coming from in-kind donations. The rest of the funds come from cash donations.

Smith says he was approached by two citizens involved in youth recreation in Grand Ledge about renovating the field. "Great idea," he told them, but city funds were tight. "So they said, 'What if we get volunteers?" Smith explains.

Smith told the pair that would work, but he wanted volunteers signed up, a budget and a time line. The pair came back with everything and the city began raising funds.

Baseball is an important part of Grand Ledge. "There is more interest [in baseball] here than in other places," says Smith.

The updated field, which will feature outfield irrigation, new fences and dugouts, will be the home field of the Pony Mustang Spring League and Grand Ledge City Recreation. The renovation should be completed by the end of April.

Source: Mayor Kalmin Smith

Writer: Daniel J. Hogan 

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

First Tee of Mid-Michigan Takes On City's Sycamore Golf Training Center

Due to budget issues, Lansing has had to close several of its golf courses, but thanks to First Tee of Mid-Michigan, the Sycamore Golf Training Center and Driving Range will remain open and save the city more than $65,000.

"The city was going to close it," says John Greenslit, executive director of First Tee Mid-Michigan. "We took it over."

First Tee of Mid-Michigan teaches golf to children age 7 to 17 and Greenslit says they focus on "at-risk kids," but they also "don't deny any youngsters."

Greenslit says that the non-profit's running of the training center and driving range will not involve any expense to the city.

Helping kids learn the game is not the only goal of First Tee of Mid-Michigan. Along with the four other chapters in Michigan, First Tee combines golf :with citizenship and nine core values," says Greenslit. Those values include honesty, sportsmanship and respect. "40 to 50 percent of our kids come back and re-enroll," he adds.

While First Tee of Mid-Michigan is responsible for maintenance and groundskeeping oat Sycamore, Greenslit empahsizes that "no one [with the city] has lost their job."

Both the training center and driving range are now open.

Source: John Greenslit, First Tee of Mid-Michigan

Writer: Daniel J. Hogan 

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

New Prep School Targets Young Professional Parents in Downtown Lansing

Little Scholars Preparatory School will be opening its doors in Downtown Lansing in late April or early May.

The school is "very small and elite," says founder and owner Audrey Pallone. "We are only taking four kids under the age of two-and-a-half, and 12 over the age of two and a half."

Pallone invested $12,000 into a three-story building located at 416 W. Ottawa. The bulk of the investment went toward getting the building up to code. The children will only occupy the 1,000 sq. ft. first floor, and Pallone says, "we're making sure the fixtures are safe for kids."

"Local day cares have waiting lists," she says of her inspiration to open the school. A lack of day care options Downtown was another reason.

"There is a big crowd of young professionals in stages of having kids," Pallone says. Her focus is to target professionals that work Downtown with extended hours: 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. "That helps parents who have different hours," explains Pallone.

"There will be three teachers," explains Pallone, each certified and licensed to teach in Michigan. "Your child is going to be learning," says Pallone, who taught first grade for five years at a charter school. The curriculum will feature reading, math, writing and music, as well as character education.

Little Scholars is located at 416 W. Ottawa, half a block West of the Capitol. Online enrollment is open now.

Source: Audrey Pallone

Writer: Daniel J. Hogan

Spartan Internet Breaks Ground on $2 Million Holmes Street School Renovation

Ryan Vartoogian, president of Spartan Internet Consulting, recently joined several community leaders to celebrate the groundbreaking at the $2 million renovation of the Holmes Street School on Lansing’s Eastside.

The long anticipated project is a complete overhaul of the old building, which will be turned into a technology and educational hub in September.

When the building’s finished, Spartan Internet Consulting will occupy the third floor, software security technology company Aegis Bleu will occupy the second and the Information Technology Empowerment Center (ITEC) will move into the first.

The ITEC is a nonprofit organization that offers hand-on activities designed to engage kids in math and science.

ITEC plans on offering digital media, robotics and other technology courses at the school in the winter. ITEC has been offering these classes since 2007, but since it hasn’t had a headquarters, has been operating from a variety of different locations. ITEC will also offer homework help to neighborhood kids.

“This is a way of grounding ITEC in the neighborhood,” says Kirk Riley, executive director of ITEC. “We don’t want residents or kids in the neighborhood to see ITEC as a place where people do science and technology and they have nothing to do with it. We want them to see it as relevant to their lives.”

Capital Area Michigan Works! summer Youth to Work Program will allow eight local students interested in construction to help with the demolition and rehabilitation of the building.

“This is a nice tie in with what it will ultimately be,” says Vartoogian. “With the ITEC, this will be a place of learning. Even during construction.”

Source: Ryan Vartoogian, Spartan Internet Consulting

Ivy Hughes is the managing editor of Capital Gains and can be reached here

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

First Stage of $800,000 Gier Community Center Renovation Complete

The first portion of an $800,000 renovation to the Lansing-based Gier Community Center is complete, providing additional gym space and spectator seating for community members.

“We were able to make our facility safer by giving spectators a place to sit,” says Gier Community Center Director Brett Kaschinske. “In doing that, we were able to add a few features including two more basketball courts and a batting tunnel.”

Gier Community Center hosts youth basketball programs, floor hockey teams, after-school programs, summer camps, teen programs and aerobics classes. Kaschinske says the center’s been in need of a renovation since its inception in 1975 and has been building a construction budget for the last several years.

“It’s an $800,000 investment, but our total costs aren’t up to that right now. But we are doing some other things,” he says.

Renovations started in June. In October, the Gier Community Center held an open house to celebrate the new gym space. Kincaid Henry Building Group worked on the project.

Source: Brett Kaschinske, Gier Community Center

Ivy Hughes is the managing editor of Capital Gains and can be reached here.

Eastside Neighborhood Makes Plans for $100,000 Outdoor Venue in Hunter Park

Keeping up with the community developments on Lansing’s Eastside can be tricky. At the behest of the Allen Neighborhood Center, the community is constantly upgrading and adding services for Eastside residents.

Now the City of Lansing is preparing to construct a $100,000 picnic shelter near the popular hoop house in Hunter Park.

“In the summer the greenhouse is too hot,” says Joan Nelson with the Allen Neighborhood Center. “You have to go outside into 85 degree weather to cool off. But it’s during that season that people are excited to learn about gardening.”

The shelter will provide space for the obvious activities — summer barbeques and birthday parties — and act as an extension to the Allen Neighborhood Center’s commitment to sustainable living. During the summer, gardening courses will be moved out of the greenhouse and into the shelter.

“We’re putting it out to bid,” Nelson says. “As soon as the ground is soft enough, we will put it in.”

The shelter will also include grills and painted chess tables. Nelson says there’s some chatter about using the outdoor shelter as a neighborhood movie theater in the summer.

The shelter is the last of the big ticket items laid out in the 2004 Hunter Park master plan, which included adding paths, a green house and benches.

Source: Joan Nelson, Allen Neighborhood Center

Ivy Hughes is the managing editor of Capital Gains and can be reached here.

City of Lansing Welcomes New $2.3 Million Southside Community Center

The City of Lansing invested $2.3 million in the Southside Community Center, renovating portions of the building as well as constructing a 5,656 square foot addition.

“This new community center will expand recreational opportunities for all of our residents,” said Mayor Bernero.  “Now children and seniors will be able to enjoy themselves, exercise or meet at this wonderful new facility.”    

The new community center is located in the former Harry Hill High School on Lansing’s Southside. As part of the investment, the city paid for renovations to the gym, pool and auditorium. The space also includes a game room, meeting space and an administrative area.

The Lansing School District and the city have agreed to share the building. The shared areas include the gym, swimming pool, oak room and auditorium. The addition is being used as administrative space for the city. The school district continues to use a portion of the building for classes.

The Southside Community Center is located at 5825 Wise Rd. 

Source: Murdock Jemerson, City of Lansing

Ivy Hughes is the managing editor of Capital Gains and can be reached here

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

DeWitt Creativity Group Developing 3,200 Sq Ft Arts and Technology Center

A group of high school students and some very dedicated advisors are working on developing a 3,200 square foot arts and technology center on the second floor of the Riverview Office Center in DeWitt.

“We were talking about the possibilities of locating a creative area where students could express their creativity and also try to get some space for them to start a business after they’ve gone through high school,” says Jason LaFay, faculty advisor for the DeWitt Creativity Group (DCG).

The DCG was created to connect creative high school students to the community and entrepreneurship. The group was founded last year. Although the group currently only occupies a portion of the 3,200 square foot space, it has big plans to use it all.

“It will be a multi-use space,” LaFay says. “We’d like to put a little café in there that’s sort of like a student-run business.”

He also wants to include a general study area, performance space and smaller areas where students can launch business ideas.

Not only does the 240 S. Bridge St. facility offer space for a group that engages the community, it also gives the community a better impression of what LaFay says is building that is a bit more modern looking than other DeWitt buildings.

“It has as spectacular view of the Looking Glass River in downtown DeWitt,” LaFay says. “It has that industrial feel that you get in cities like Chicago and New York.”

Right now the DCG is leasing a smaller space in the building, but is in the middle of a campaign to raise $50,000 to build out the rest of the space. LaFay and Jeff Croley, who is the DCG director and also a faculty member at DeWitt High School, want to be able to hold meetings and events in the space as well as offer a place where students can display their creative work.

The DWC has hosted several events and has worked closely with community members to build a bridge between students, community, business and the arts.

Nov. 12, they will host a discussion about the city after an "Our Town" performance. For more information, email LaFay here.

Source: Jason LaFay, DeWitt Creativity Group

Ivy Hughes is the managing editor of Capital Gains and can be reached here.

Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan Moves to 9,480 Sq Ft Space in Old Town

The Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan are the latest tenants in Old Town, moving to a 9,480 square foot office/retail space on Turner Street.

“We were in Holt for many years, but about a year ago, we merged five Girl Scout councils into one,” says Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan Communications Specialist Char Luttrell. “This streamlines operations and provides more services to the girls and the volunteers.”

The Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan serves about 25,000 girls and moved to Old Town in October. The Lansing Regional Center, located at 1223 Turner Street, includes a 7600-square-foot office suite and a street-level, 1880-square-foot retail space.

“Old Town is delightful,” she says. “It’s a great mix of businesses and various members of the staff are excited to be in such a vibrant area.”

The new Girl Scout regional center is the former headquarters of the Greater Lansing Michigan Convention & Visitors Bureau

Source: Char Luttrell, Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan

Ivy Hughes is the managing editor of Capital Gains and can be reached here.

MSU Opens $3.5 million, 24,000 Sq Foot Shooting Sports Education Center

The $3.5 million John and Marnie Demmer Shooting Sports Education and Training Center on Michigan State University’s (MSU) campus is now open.

MSU broke ground on the facility last fall. The sports center has three outdoor archery ranges, an indoor archery range and two, eight-lane ballistic ranges for accepted .22 caliber rifles and pistols.

“The focus is on training and education, it’s not just another shooting range,” says Chuck Reid, director of MSU’s Office Land Management, which oversees the facility. “Originally, this was conceived for the home of a future NCAA mixed rifle team.”

Reid says the team may eventually come to fruition, but in the meantime, the facility is used by faculty members and is also open to the public. Everyone who uses the facility receives training and safety education. 

The center is one of the largest indoor shooting facilities in the Midwest. Individuals can bring their own equipment, but can also rent archery, .22 firearm and air rifle equipment.

The John and Marnie Demmer Shooting Sports Education and Training Center, 3365 E. Jolly Road, is located south of campus, midway between College and Hagadorn Roads.

Source: MSU

Ivy Hughes is the managing editor of Capital Gains and can be reached here.

Leslie Athlete Returns Home, Opens 46,000 Sq Ft Preparatory School for Athletes

After going to Louisiana to play college basketball and California for a job, Leslie native Erika Ernst has returned home and is turning a 46,000 square foot historic building into a preparatory school for top-notch athletes.

Ernst is rehabbing the old school building on Woodworth Street in Leslie. She plans to open the Ernst Preparatory School in October.

“It’s not just a school boarding program for student athletes,” she says. “It’s only for high-level student athletes.”

The school will train students in baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, cheer and dance. This year, Ernst is accepting eighth through tenth graders. Eventually, she’ll accept post-graduate athletes.

Ernst likens the program to popular tennis programs where the athletes work with the same coaches and trainers throughout their training. She has a trainer and strength coordinator who works with the Detroit Pistons and the Detroit Tigers lined up to work at the school and is recruiting other high-quality coaches. She says Florida-based IMG Academies is the only other program in the U.S. that offers similar services.

“This is a great thing for these kids because it helps them get their education rather than just pushing them through the system,” Ernst says.

Before Ernst came along, the building’s owner thought of turning it into a daycare facility or elderly home.

“What I’m trying to do with this school is bring it back to its history,” Ernst says. She’s tearing down walls, pulling out dropped ceilings to expose the original arches and replacing bricks.

Source: Erika Ernst, Ernst Preparatory School

Ivy Hughes is the managing editor of Capital Gains and can be reached here.

2,700 Sq Ft County-Run Preschool in Mason Reopening as Early Childcare Center

After cuts to the Ingham Intermediate School District threatened to force the dissolution of the 2,700 square foot Galileo childcare center in Mason, Cora and David Zink decided to take over the operation.

Now, the Zinks are enrolling three and four year olds in the renamed Renaissance Early Childhood Center. Not only has the name changed, but the curriculum has as well.

“The main difference in the programs is that this is child-driven rather than thematic,” says Cora Zink. “Other programs would have a planned program, but we really cue into what the children’s natural interests are, and if we notice that there’s a pattern and that several children are becoming interested in it, we really focus on it.”

The Zinks plan on adding summer programs and creating a resource room for parents on the upper floor.

“I think this space is very suitable for so many camps — reading, writing, math, science. I think it could be a really valuable part of the community,” she says.

The Zinks will keep the classroom size to 15 students, hosting one class in the morning and one in the afternoon. Classes will start Sept. 14. The Renaissance Early Childhood Center will host an open house from 6 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 5. The center is located at 2949 Sandhill Road in Mason.

Source: Cora Zink, Renaissance Early Childhood Center

Ivy Hughes is the managing editor of Capital Gains and can be reached here.

East Lansing's 27,000 Sq Ft Walnut Hills Celebrates After Restructuring

After a nearly three month-long renovation and upgrade, Walnut Hills, the East Lansing country club that was in financial turmoil, has a fresh new look.

“Basically we’ve done some basic renovations,” says Walnut Hills partner Kip Miller. “We painted the new sign and worked on the pool to make it a nicer place to sit and eat. We did some very minor things, but aesthetically, it needed it.”

Aside from changing the physical look of Walnut Hills, Miller and his business partner, Paul Vlahakis, changed their marketing strategy, targeting families. Though the former owners welcomed families, the new owners are specifically trying to attract families.

“What we realized is that we’re a great golf course, but it just wasn’t enough to fit the bill,” Miller says. “The country club life is not what they (customers) want. They want it to be kid friendly. We’ve gotten our demographic down to where they’re in their 30s and 40s.”

Since Miller and Vlahakis took over, membership has increased by 17-20 percent. Miller attributes the increase to the club’s renewed financial stability and its focus on family.

On June 23, the owners and community celebrated an open house at Walnut Hills.

“We did our due diligence,” Miller says about the venture. “We thought it would be a good thing to turn around. It’s a great piece of land in a beautiful area of town.”

Source: Emily Wenstrom, Motion Marketing & Media

Ivy Hughes is the managing editor of Capital Gains and can be reached here

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

City of Lansing Puts $25,000 into New Playground for Old Town Park

On Aug. 17, community members will volunteer their time to put together a new playground in Old Town.

The playground, which will be constructed in Old Town’s Burchard Park, is designed to make Old Town more of a destination for area families, according to Old Town Commercial Association Board Member Heather Chunko.

“We were trying to come up with some ideas on how to better utilize the park and we realized that there wasn’t much in Old Town for families,” Chunko says.

The OTCA approached the City of Lansing about the project and the city helped the OTCA find more than $25,000 in funding for the park.

“I think with the money that we raised and the money the city agreed to provide, we’re pretty well set,” she says.

The playground will include new slides, a new age teeter-totter and tiered platforms.

The OTCA is still looking for volunteers to help build the park. If you’re interested, click here.

Source: Heather Chunko, OTCA

Ivy Hughes is the managing editor of Capital Gains and can be reached here

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

Preuss Pets, Lansing Community College Partner on $10,000 Teaching Tank

Old Town pet shop, Preuss Pets, has donated more than $10,000 worth of equipment to Lansing Community College (LCC) for the construction of a perfect eco-system tank.

The 150-gallon coral reef tank was put together this spring, but will take several months to “get up to its full glory,” according to Tom Deits, chair of the LCC Science Department.

The tank contains coral beauty, pink skunk clown fish, bangai cardinal fish, zebra dart gobies, tang, flame angel and a bicolor blenny fish.

Deits says the college will use the tank as a teaching tool.

Students "have no idea that the animal kingdom is so diverse,” he says. “We want to teach them about their environment and how the balance works.”

LCC is setting up some internships with Preuss so students can learn about the system and help maintain the aquarium.

“What we need to do is think about the tank as planet Earth on its own,” Deits says. “It’s a closed system, so you have to think about food, the chemicals necessary for life, partners in the environment, predators, prey and parasites. You have to sort out a way to make that all happen—like in a spaceship.”

LCC had a saltwater aquarium years ago, but it was outdated and the college had some issues with the equipment so it was removed.

“This is a significant donation, there’s no doubt about that,” Deits says.

Source: Tom Deits, LCC

Ivy Hughes is the managing editor of Capital Gains and can be reached here

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

LCC Invests $1.7 Million in 12,000 Sq Ft Child Development and Daycare Facility

The Lansing Community College (LCC) Board of Trustees recently approved a $1.7 million budget to turn the college’s 12,000 square foot former photography building into a children’s learning center.

“The number one reason for doing this is a financial one,” says Linda Heard, communications specialist for LCC. “Students and faculty are under financial challenges just like the rest of us and if we can lighten that burden, it frees up students to learn.”

Not only will the center provide daycare services for staff and students, it will also give Early Learning Children’s Community (Early LCC) students internship experience working with young children.

“Not only will we be providing services for these people, but it will also be a learning center,” Heard says.

LCC has been trying to create an on-site daycare facility for more than 30 years. The facility, which will be open year-round and is scheduled to be finished in the fall of 2010, will accommodate 93 children. Heard says if the center does not reach capacity, LCC will allow community members to enroll their children at the facility.

Source: Linda Heard, LCC

Ivy Hughes is the managing editor of Capital Gains and can be reached here

$200,000, 1,080 Sq Ft Exhibit Brings 450 Australian Birds to Potter Park Zoo

For the next two years, Potter Park Zoo visitors will get a treat from down under in the form of the “Wings Down Under” exhibit.

The $200,000 exhibit, covering 1,080 square feet, is home to 500 parakeets, cockatiels and rosellas.

“It’s a color explosion,” says Willis Bennett, director of parks for Ingham County.

When the county took over the zoo two years ago, it decided to try to include more interactive exhibits. For several years, the zoo researched interactive exhibits around the country. However, the city’s cold winter climate limits a lot of interactive exhibits that are feasible in other states, such as California.

“Because it’s an exposed exhibit, we needed to have something that’s seasonal,” Bennett says. “This was an exhibit that really allowed everybody of every age to enjoy it form the smallest children to the oldest visitor.”

Staff from Living Exhibits, a California-based company that manages living exhibits, oversees “Wings Down Under.” Visitors can walk through the exhibit and actually interact with the birds.

“This is an education experience as well as a fun experience,” he says. “There’s an opportunity for interacting with the knowledgeable staff and visitors can actually touch the birds.”

Source: Deb Bavery, Ingham County Parks

Ivy Hughes is the managing editor of Capital Gains and can be reached here.

O'Leary Donates Paint for Renovation of REO Town's Reach Studio Art Center

Eastside business owners David and John O’Leary are providing enough paint to cover the 6,000 square foot Reach Studio Art Center in REO Town as part of a renovation project.

Reach us a non-profit art center that’s been open since 2003. The exterior paint is peeling and in need of repair.

“No major renovations have been done since that point,” says Reach Outreach Coordinator Jessica Swisher.

In 2008, 732 young people and 251 adults participated in Reach’s programs.

Through their company, O’Leary Paint, the O’Learys have donated enough paint to give the studio a much-needed makeover. From 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., Saturday May 30, dozens of community volunteers will paint Reach, working in three-hour shifts to ensure the building is finished by the day’s end.

O’Leary got involved with the project after talking with a member of the Arts Council of Greater Lansing, who mentioned that Reach needed help with a renovation.

“It’s such a worthwhile cause,” David O’Leary says. “It’s an easy one to get behind. We’re lucky to have people like this in the community. If this isn’t a worthwhile project, I don’t know what is. It didn’t take a lot of selling.” 

The rain date for the project is Saturday, June 6. For more information, click here.

Source: Jessica Swisher, Reach Studio Art Center

Ivy Hughes is the managing editor of Capital Gains and can be reached here

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

Favorite Old Town Ice Cream Spot Reopens After Five Year Hiatus

It’s the 105th anniversary of the banana split and, for the first time in five years, Old Town Lansing’s beloved ice cream shop is reopening.

Arctic Corner, which is the former Tate’s Freeze, opened a few days ago and is now ready to start dolling out banana splits and soft serve ice cream.

Like Tate’s, Arctic Corner will sell chocolate and vanilla and eventually add cherry and lemon soft serve ice cream. The new owners have also added nachos, sandwiches and hotdogs to the menu.

Arctic Corner is a family business. It’s owned by Sharon Lycos. Her daughter, Alissa Lycos is heavily involved in the operations and Mark Adkins, a family friend, is the manager. When Alissa was growing up, Sharon frequently took her to Tate’s in the summer.

“When they shut down, it left a real void,” Sharon Lycos says. “There was no soft serve. There’s so much going on down here—it’s a quaint area of town. It’s very diverse.”

Lycos nearly gutted the building to prep it for new customers. She plans to follow the Tate model and keep the business open during the warm months (roughly March through September) and close it during the cold ones.

Arctic Corner is located at 314 E. Grand River Ave. in Old Town.

Source: Sharon Lycos, Arctic Circle

Ivy Hughes is the managing editor of Capital Gains and can be reached here.

$850,000 Hunter Park Pool Grand Opening Scheduled For All Day Eastside Bash

The $850,000 Eastside Lansing Hunter Park Pool and splash pad renovation was completed last October, past prime swimming season. Now that summer is almost upon us, the Eastside is excited to unveil the public outdoor pool at its grand opening on May 30.

There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony followed by an all-day swim lasting until 7:00 in the evening. Festivities are planned all day at Hunter Park as part of Lansing's Be a Tourist in Your Own Town activities. There will be a Family Fun Walk, Gardenhouse Tours and a free Hunter Park Music Fest. 

"There are many delightful things happening at Hunter Park, in addition to the grand opening of the pool," says Joan Nelson, Director of the Allen Neighborhood Center.

"Folks can come spend the entire day of May 30 enjoying music, food, workshops, walks, swimming and the start of summer in the beautiful 13-acre Hunter Park."

The pool and splash pad will be available for free open swimming everyday from 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. until September 7. Adult classes and lap swimming will also be available from 7:00 8:00 p.m. everyday.

The pool also has a new zero-depth sloping entry to allow wheelchair access, and the splash pad has lots of water-spraying toys for children.

Source: Joan Nelson, Allen Neighborhood Center

Suban Nur Cooley, interim development news editor, can be reached here.  

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

New 500 Sq Ft Ice Cream and Treats Shop Gearing Up for Summer in St. Johns

After losing the Sugar Bowl ice cream parlor, St. Johns entrepreneur Jim Ortman and his wife, Cindy, opened Cindy’s Ice Cream and Treats.

The 500 square foot ice cream shop is in a renovated bank at 207 Spring St. The bank was empty for 10 years before the Ortmans took on the project.

“It was an eyesore,” Ortman says. “There were holes in the bulletproof windows and the landscape was overgrown.”

They renovated the entire building as well as the drive-up portion of the bank, which adds at least another 3,000 square feet to Cindy’s Ice Cream and Treats.

“We came up with the idea that, in the back of the parking lot, we could create a place for families to gather,” Ortman says. “It’s a safe place. We wanted to take the 1950s and 1960s theme and make it fun.”

The renovation was completed in April 2008. Cindy’s Ice Cream and Treats is open seasonally, April through October.

Source: Jim Ortman, Ortman Photography

Ivy Hughes, development news editor, can be reached here

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

Clothing Boutique Moves from Old Town to Larger 1900 Sq Ft South Lansing Space

After seven years on Turner Street in Old Town, Ethel Artis, owner of Ja’Meshas’ Ruffles and Lace, moved her family business to 5124 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in South Lansing.

The quaint boutique that specializes in elegant children’s dress wear has been operating in the Lansing area for more than 19 years. Ja’Meshas’ Ruffles and Lace just recently celebrated their first year at the new location.

Although business has improved for the store at this new space in South Lansing, the Artis family misses the Old Town area. On the counter sits a picture of Golden Harvest owner, Zane, and his children wearing clothes purchased from Ja’Meshas’ Ruffles and Lace. 

“It was that family atmosphere where every business owner knew other business owners and their employees,” says Betty H., Artis’ daughter. “We looked out for each other and were there for each other.”

The new space is approximately 1900 sq. ft., which Betty estimates is a little more than double the size of their previous location in Old Town.

Source: Betty H., Ja’Meshas’ Ruffles and Lace.

Suban Nur Cooley, interim development news editor, can be reached here.

Mid-Michigan Family Theater Settles Into New 4,200 Sq Ft Frandor Location

After a mad rush to move from the Lansing mall to the Frandor Shopping Center before the holidays, the Mid-Michigan Family Theater is now settling into its new location and preparing for upcoming shows.

The Mid-Michigan Family Theater looked at four new sites before choosing the 4,200 square foot, 440 Frandor Ave. location.

“The idea was that people coming here (to the Mid-Michigan Family Theater) would make a trip to an additional location in Frandor,” says Mid-Michigan Family Theater Bill Gordon. “We hope to help Frandor out.”

The new space has also given the theater increased visibility, an asset Gordon hopes will boost attendance at the Theater’s annual eight-play line up. Each of the eight plays runs eight shows over two weekends.

The new space gives the theater an administrative front room, a lobby, a stage with room for 100 seats, a back stage area, green room, costume gallery and restrooms.

“I think a community is lucky to have two children’s theaters, if they even have one,” Gordon says. The Capital region also has the All of Us Express children’s theater.

The Mid-Michigan Family Theater completed its move in November 2008.

Source: Bill Gordon, Mid-Michigan Family Theater

Ivy Hughes, development news editor, can be reached here.

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

Former Grand Ledge Bank Building Gets Faith-based Facelift

The Imagine This ministry of the United Brethren in Christ Church, has settled into a former bank building in downtown Grand Ledge.

“We just fell in love with Grand Ledge and the people and the community,” says Pastor Gordon Kettel. “It just became really apparent that we needed to be here.”

Imagine This is located at 227 S. Bridge St. Imagine This has been in the roughly 3,500 square foot building since May 2008. Imagine This has a children’s ministry in the basement of the building as well. They renovated the space before they moved in.

“I wouldn’t call it a café environment, but it definitely does not have a traditional church feel when you come in the door,” he says. Kettel refers to his group as a faith-based community rather than a church.

The activity in the downtown also attracted Kettel to the location.

“Someone said that Grand Ledge has at least six parades a year,” Kettel says. “Obviously the downtown is important to people and it should be important to us.”

Source: Gordon Kettle, Imagine This

Ivy Hughes, development news editor, can be reached here

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

Updated Sun Theater in Grand Ledge Attracts New Shows, Younger Crowd

The Sun Theater in Grand Ledge has undergone an internal and external makeover.

“We’ve really made a big change in terms of the things that we’re doing now in addition to movies,” says Chuck Pantera, owner of the Sun Theater. “We’ve has some concerts, a battle of the bands and many music shows.”

The Pantera family owned the theater from 1989 to 1999. In 1999 they sold it to another family who then made some major renovations including putting in new seats and updating the screen and sound system.

In September 2008, the Panteras took the theater over again and decided to move beyond movies and create more of a community gathering space.

Pantera’s daughter, Emily Pantera, is working with local community college and high school students to create a short film festival.

“We wanted to get people back into the theater to watch their own works,” she says.

High schools from around the state have also showed interest in these film festivals, which Emily hopes will become a staple at the theater. Emily says she’ll talk to any group who has an idea for theater. The Pantera’s hope to update the theater’s façade in the upcoming years.

Feb. 22, the Sun Theater will host Echoes of Pink Floyd, a Pink Floyd tribute band that will play live music while the Wizard of Oz plays on the Sun Theater’s screen.

Source: Chuck Pantera, Sun Theater

Ivy Hughes, development news editor, can be reached here.

Longtime Eastside Collectibles Shop Moves to New 1,700 Sq Ft Building

Capital City Collectibles has been on Lansing’s Eastside for 28 years. Though Capital City Collectibles owner Stephen Jahner isn’t leaving the neighborhood, he has traded his 2016 Michigan Ave. address for a 1723 Michigan Ave. address.

The new 1,700 square foot space is roughly 300 square feet smaller than his old location, but Jahner, who did not own his former building, needed to find a new space.

“I’ve always pretty much considered myself to be an Eastsider,” Jahner says. “And I’ve always pretty much considered the 2000 block to be a good home.”

Jahner’s shop is well known amongst comic book aficionados.

“I have helped thousands of parents and teachers show their children that reading is fun, that it doesn’t have to be a chore,” he says. “I have people who moved out decades ago, but we still get their business because they like how we do it.”

Jahner’s new home is in the former music venue and music store, Replay Exchange. Jahner had to renovate the space fairly heavily before moving in.

“I think the Eastside, contrary to popular belief, is the place where the advent grade of people in Lansing are,” he says. 

Source: Stephen Jahner, Capital City Collectibles

Ivy Hughes, development news editor, can be reached here

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

Meridian Christian Church Holds First Service In New 20,000 Sq Ft Addition

The Meridian Christian Church recently celebrated its 20,000 square foot facility addition by holding its first service in the building.

“This is our first building of any kind,” says Rick Stacy, pastor with the Meridian Christian Church. “This was perfect for the future grow of our ministries and youth program.”

The 16-year-old organization got its start in Meridian Mall, then moved its services to Chippewa Middle School. This is the first time parishioners have worshiped in a place of their own.

The Meridian Christian Church also acquired an 11,000 square foot children’s center from the Okemos Christian Center (OCC). The Meridian Christian Church moved some services into the former OCC building in October.

Stacy says they hope to have a youth center in the facility as well as a worship center and gym. Right now the gym houses the church’s large motor skills preschool program.

The church’s former address is 2630 Bennett Road. The new address is 2600 Bennett Road.

Source: Rick Stacy, Meridian Christian Church

Ivy Hughes, development news editor, can be reached here

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

Potter Park Zoo Plans $1.1 Million Expansion to Bring Black Rhino

Lansing’s Potter Park Zoo has plans to invest $1.1 million in a rhinoceros exhibit expansion.

The project would include a 500 to 600 square foot addition to the existing, 1,560 square foot rhino building. It would also double the size of the current outdoor rhino yard.

Zoo Director Gerry Brady hopes to add a black rhino to the exhibit. Only 520 black rhinos exist in the wild. More than 60,000 wild black rhinos existed in 1960, Brady says.

“Every single rhino in Kenya has a bodyguard,” Brady says.

Brady is working with the International Rhino Foundation to get a black rhino in the zoo. Brady says doing so will help with breeding and preservation of the rhinos.

“It’s very important for Potter Park Zoo to get this done,” he says. The zoo wants to make sure that it has proper space and accommodations for the black rhino before bringing it to the zoo. “If we’re going to have black rhinos, we’ve got to do it right.”

The Potter Park Zoo has had rhinos since 1990. Brady hopes to have the expansion complete by the fall of 2009.

Source: Gerry Brady, Potter Park Zoo

Ivy Hughes, development news editor, can be reached here

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

Bustling Downtown YMCA Plans Second Expansion in Two Years

The Downtown Lansing YMCA is working on a 3,000 square foot expansion that, if all goes well, should be complete just in time to accommodate the January rush.

The YMCA is expanding its second floor exercise and fitness room space. The 3,000 square foot expansion will include a stretching room, a "mind, body and spirit" room for group yoga and pilates classes, and an area for suspension training and self-defense classes.

Suspension training is the latest in the group fitness trend. Participants use suspension straps that are hung from the ceiling to work various muscle groups. The straps allow them to use their body weight to increase their strength.

YMCA Assistant Executive Director, Ben Wheeler, says the expansion will accommodate growing fitness classes and give members access to a much-needed stretching space.

“It’s across the board that our classes are growing,” he says.

The expansion will also include a second floor bathroom. In 2007, the YMCA expanded the upstairs fitness area by 4,000 square feet. That expansion primarily included additional space for fitness machines and weights.

The Downtown YMCA is hoping to have the latest expansion opened by January.

Source: Ben Wheeler, YMCA

Ivy Hughes, development news editor, can be reached here

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

New 2,567 Sq. Ft. Tutoring Center Finds Success in Okemos, May Expand

A+ By Design, a tutoring company, has moved into a 2,567 square foot space in Okemos. A + By Design seeks to help K-12 students succeed at their schoolwork.

“The whole concept is providing supplement teaching or education to any level,” says the owner of A + By Design, Maher Abdmahmoud. Before Abdmahmoud opened his tutoring company, he surveyed area teachers who overwhelming indicated a need for his services.

“I had a big line of teachers coming forward with all subjects,” he says.

Abdmahmoud’s pool of tutors includes teachers who have varying certifications. He also has some graduate students and teacher’s aids. Parents decide which subjects their child needs assistance with, and Abdmahmoud develops a personalized curriculum for the student.

Abdmahmoud has about a dozen clients, but sees continued interest in his services.

“I’m in the process of building the business,” he says, adding that he will invest heavily in the new school year. He also wants to provide summer programs. “The plan is not to stop here. We’re looking at other options. Maybe East Lansing, Lansing or Haslett. The main operations will take place in Okemos.”

A + By Design opened in October.

Source: Tarwyn Rouse, CBRE

Ivy Hughes, development news editor, can be reached here.


22,000 Sq Ft Mason Bowling Center Completes Renovation

The 22,000 square foot Mason Bowling Center, including the City Limits Sports Grill located inside, has undergone a complete renovation that includes a new scoring system, bar, interior improvements and exterior updates.

“Pretty much everything’s been done but the bathrooms,” says Mason Bowling Center's manager, Matt McCormick. McCormick says the Mason Bowling Center hasn’t had an update since the late 1970s.

“It’s been very well received,” he says. “We’ve almost doubled our sales from what they were when it was originally bought.”

The 4,000 square foot renovation of the restaurant inside the Mason Bowling Center has helped attract more families to the Center.

“We get a lot more family business,” McCormick says. “We do some smoke-free bowling on the weekends, and we’ve made a couple more family packages. We do a lot more birthday parties than we used to.”

The Mason Bowling Center changed hands in early 2004. The renovations started in 2005.

Source: Matt McCormick, Mason Bowling Center

Ivy Hughes, development news editor, can be reached here

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

10,640 Sq. Ft. Learning Center Planned for East Lansing

Lisa Raths is capitalizing on the family-friendly nature of East Lansing by opening a 10,640 square foot Christian daycare on Coleman Road.

“East Lansing is where the growth is, and it’s where our demographic is,” Raths says. “We needed to make sure that we were picking the right spot. East Lansing has growth and is still growing. It’s potentially the most stable area.”

The Apple Tree Christian Learning Center will be constructed on a 1.23 acres piece of land at 3341 Coleman Road in East Lansing. Once opened, the center will be able to handle 170 children six days a week. Raths says the Center will cater to a wide range of ages starting with infants and ending with 12-year-olds.

“This is great for the area,” she says. “We’re not a huge employer, but we’ll bring employment to the area.”

The Center is slated to be opened by early spring 2008.

Source: Lisa Raths, Apple Tree Christian Learning Center

Ivy Hughes, development news editor, can be reached here.

$850,000 Eastside Lansing Hunter Park Pool Makeover Finished

It took a little longer than expected, but the $850,000 Eastside Lansing Hunter Park Pool and splash pad renovation is finished.

Lansing city officials had hoped for a mid-summer opening, but had to settle for a September unveiling instead.

“We weren’t really able to start this until the spring, when all of the contracts were signed,” says Murdock Jemerson with the City of Lansing. “We were hoping to get it done, but things didn’t work out that way.”

The renovations included a new pool liner and gutter system, re-caulking, a spray park and a "zero entry point” for handicapped accessibility.

The pool has been closed since mid-2006.

Ivy Hughes, development news editor, can be reached here.  

Photographs © Dave Trumpie

1930s-Era Ranney Park Softball Facility Gets $220,000 Update

Lansing’s Ranney Park ball diamond recently got a much-needed $220,000 update that includes an expanded press box, scorer’s booth, larger dugouts, a new speaker system and a new backstop.

Before the recent upgrade, Ranney Park's facility had not been updated since the 1930s.

The new complex also includes an umpire’s changing room complete with lockers and restroom facilities, located on the first floor.

“It’s really a big huge step up from the old facility,”says Murdock Jemerson with the City of Lansing. “We’re really proud of it.”

The Lansing Community College (LCC) women’s softball team and several fast pitch softball leagues play at Ranney Park.

Source: Randy Hannan, City of Lansing

Ivy Hughes, development news editor, can be reached here

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

Lansing Habitat for Humanity Launches $5,000 Youth Program

Habitat for Humanity Lansing has a lot on its agenda, including the launch of its new Building Up Youth program.

The program, which was initially funded with a $5,000 grant from the Jackson National Community Foundation, allows Habitat for Humanity Lansing to approach youth groups who may be interested in “building up” Lansing.

“There are a lot of things we work with kids on and it’s really exciting to bring kids on-site because it teaches them the value of community service,” says Julie Burtch, development director for Habitat for Humanity Lansing.

Habitat for Humanity Lansing is also working with the Ingham County Land Bank to purchase, rehab and resell foreclosed homes in Mid-Michigan.

“We’re going to take these homes and turn them into owner occupancy,” Burtch says. Burtch expects the rehabbed homes to cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $40,000 to $50,000. TheLand Bank and Habitat for Humanity Lansing want to complete six homes this year. The first should be finished at the end of July.

“We have looked at a number of homes through the Land Bank partnership, and now we have our families and we’re starting to work together,” she says.

Burtch says the partnership allows Habitat for Humanity Lansing to get families into foreclosed houses much faster than the nonprofit would be able to do on its own.

“Owner-occupancy in a home increases the safety of a neighborhood because the residents are more permanent and they’re more invested in their home,” she says. “They’ll be taking care of it and hopefully be better neighbors because of it. This is going to be a huge improvement for some of the neighborhoods.”

Source: Julie Burtch, development director for Habitat for Humanity Lansing

Ivy Hughes, development news editor, can be reached here.

New Master Plan in the Works for Potter Park Zoo

A master plan to update Potter Park Zoo on Lansing's Southside is in the works and will be rolled out by the end of the year. The zoo’s master plan hasn’t been updated in more than 10 years.

“The whole zoo will be improved and will include many different dimensions,” says Lansing Zoo's director, Gerry Brady.

This includes an overall business plan; a marketing and development plan; conservation efforts; landscaping; exhibits; community development; and site development. The updated plan will result in more exhibits and a better zoo, Brady says.

The Lansing Potter Park Zoo is one of roughly 200 accredited zoos in the country. The U.S. has roughly 2,000 zoos, but only 10 percent of them are accredited. Last fall, the Potter Park Zoo was accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and was recognized as one of the best zoos and aquariums in the country.

Potter Park Zoo earned accreditation after passing AZA’s strenuous investigation into the zoo’s efforts with animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education and safety.

Source: Gerry Brady, Lansing Potter Park Zoo

Ivy Hughes, development news editor, can be reached here.

Four Stories of Laser Tag Headed to Old 30,000 Sq. Ft. MoviePlex

The first phase of a 30,000-square foot recreation complex, including a four-story laser tag competition room, is set to open in Delta Township in early April.

The new laser tag venue is more than double the size of the nearby Zap Zone laser tag room. The old, 6,000 square foot room is being shut down so that owner, Michael Hafez, can expand into the theater facility on East Mall Drive.

“Laser tag is really popular in Lansing,” Hafez says. “We believe that if we market it right, we’ll be able to draw from the outside area.

The new fun center will also include party rooms, a pizzeria, two "bounce houses" for little kids, a stuffed bear-making center, an 18-hole, glow-in-the-dark, mini-golf course and bumper cars.

The laser tag, bumper car, party rooms and bounce houses will be open in April; the other features will open throughout the summer. The whole project will be finished by mid-summer.

Source: Michael Hafez, Zap Zone

Ivy Hughes, development news editor, can be reached here.

City of Lansing Using $850,000 to Rehab Community Pool

The City of Lansing is using $850,000 to rehab the popular Hunter Park Community Pool, which has been shut down since mid-2006.

This pool serves a large neighborhood on the Eastside of Lansing, and theyve been without their pool for a year and a half, says Murdock Jemerson, with the City of Lansing.

The city is putting in a new liner, re-caulking the pool, putting in a new gutter system, adding a spray park and creating a "zero entry point," to make the pool handicap accessible.

Once this pool is renovated, it will become more of a regional than a community swimming pool because of the improvements that will be made,Jemerson says.

The city hopes to complete renovations by mid-July.

Source: Murdock Jemerson, City of Lansing

Ivy Hughes, development news editor, can be reached here

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

Lansing-area Libraries Seeking $94 Million to Meet Growing Demand

The 13 libraries that make up the Capital Area District Library (CADL) system will ask voters to approve a $94 million proposal in August to build five new libraries and renovate or expand the remaining eight libraries.

If passed, the largest improvement would be made to the Downtown Lansing branch. The $31.6 million expansion of the Downtown Library would expand the current 75,000 square foot space to 101,227 square feet.

“During the past 10 years we’ve seen use just skyrocket, beyond what anybody expected,” says CADL Director Sue Hill. Computer use has increased by 364 percent and circulation is up 242 percent, she says.

The library expansions will help keep up with growth and will give the CADL ownership over its buildings, she adds. The CADL doesn’t own any of the buildings that house the 13 libraries.

The $94 million proposal also includes $7.9 million for the expansion of the Impression 5 Science Center.

Source: Sue Hill, Capital Area District Libraries

Ivy Hughes, development news editor, can be reached here

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

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