Here’s Capital Gains’ look at moving to Old Town Lansing. Also check out our guides to visiting and investing in Old Town.
Old Town today attracts residents seeking a sense of place. Part of the attraction is the diversity of living options, from a home or upstairs loft with Old Town’s Victorian charm, to a new condominium, to a completely remodeled or a fixer-up house with character, Old Town offers it all—and at prices people in equally hip surroundings would likely envy.
But it also offers the mix of diversity, art, food and frolic that many young professionals are looking for, and its success in attracting them as put it squarely at the forefront of Lansing’s urban renaissance.
The shops, boutiques, restaurants and office-dwellers in Old Town create what many people are finding to be an inspiring place to live, totally unlike any other in the Lansing area. From the popular diners like Old Town Diner
and the Golden Harvest Restaurant
, to coffeeshops and cafes like Mama Bear’s
and Portable Feast & Friends
, Old Town offers a true taste of downtown quality of life.
It’s got nightlife galore, from Spiral dance club
to the old fashioned Esquire
bars and the hip new Rendezvous on the Grand
, located in an old bank building near the river. And, often cited by residents as a main attraction, the Lansing River Trail
, one of the longest paved urban pathways in the county, is right outside your doorstep and tours along the scenic Grand River.
In addition to all the artsy boutiques, coffeeshops, and local eateries, Old Town offers other staples of the urban lifestyle. You can buy new outfits at boutique clothing stores; think about getting your hair done at any of Old Town’s three salons, including the new Bella Rio
, which looks like it just arrived from the Miracle Mile in Chicago. And there’s also Old Town Pilates
and Hilltop Yoga
to round out your redo. Young Professionals
The combination of character, amenities and convenience has attracted young residents, the hallmark of a successful city. Some work there. Some live and work there. Some simply live there. But all seem to love it there.
Take, for example, Okemos High School graduate Shannon Rolley, who grew up in California and New Jersey. She was an MSU senior in advertising and public relations when she earned an internship at the Old Town Commercial Association
. She’s grown to love Old Town so much she’s now moved there, to a house near the newly rehabbed Walnut Street School
“My internship was so much fun,” she says. “And then last July I was asked to go full time, just when we were competing for the IKEA makeover.”
Living in Old Town means she can walk to work, or ride her bike down the River Trail and to other favorite places. Another plus: Old Town entertainment and shopping are just four city blocks up the street. “I guess you can say I just sort of hang out in Old Town, even on weekends,” she says.
Shannon has no plans to move to a bigger city. “I really, really enjoy what I’m doing right now, career-wise,“ she says. “Lansing is a great place to live, and if I ended up staying there, I would be really happy with that.”
At the ripe old age of 27, Julielyn Gibbons is ready to settle down and invest in a place, and she wants that place to be Old Town. That’s a familiar story in Old Town, from entrepreneurial types to community-minded types.
Originally from South Lyon, Michigan, Julielyn attended MSU and is a couple credits shy of a degree in political science. “I love that even though Lansing is a big town, there are communities within that big town that make it feel kind of like Grover’s Corners, where everybody knows everybody. So I love the big town, but the closeness of Old Town.”
In a story more reminiscent of Chicago than Lansing, Gibbons lives in Downtown Lansing while she searches for the perfect loft in Old Town—a project she’s been working on more for much of the past 18 months.
“I’m an online activism coordinator for an organization that just moved to the edge of Old Town, which made me pretty happy,” she says. “The whole reason I want to move to Old Town is that I knew Robert Busby, and I so much admired the culture, the music, and the architecture that he and others were nurturing,” she says. “To me, Old Town is the one part of Lansing where everybody is a family.”Reverse Commute
Some young professionals are living in Old Town though they commute to jobs elsewhere in the region. Jenelle Wierenga, for example, works in East Lansing but her heart—and her house—is in Old Town. She lives just a block off Grand River, and close to everything.
“I love it here,” she says. “I love it because it’s friendly. There’s a diverse demographic here, but everybody from all walks of life just stops and talks to each other on the street.”
When asked whether she feels safe living in Old Town, Jenelle has the same answer as most everyone who lives there. “I think I had preconceived notions of it not being safe,” she says. “But I have never felt safer, because everyone looks out for each other down here.”
Another resident of Old Town who commutes elsewhere for work is 25-year-old Brandon Sanders, a music composition and conducting major at Lansing Community College
and musician who lives in a loft apartment on Old Town's main thoroughfare, Grand River Avenue. He’s originally from Oklahoma, and while the music of Old Town isn’t in the same family as his classical inclinations, Brandon still takes advantage of the musical venues in Old Town, and participates in events.
“During the spring, summer, and fall, I’m pretty much outside, taking advantage of the entertainment,” says Brandon. “And I like to volunteer at festivals.”
The festivals that helped put Old Town on the map are likely to keep it popular with residents as well. Who could complain about having some of the region’s most popular festivals right outside your door? Starting in June with the Colors of Salsa, the parties come in succession with the Festival of the Moon, Festival of the Sun, Lansing Jazzfest, Old Town Bluesfest, and Old Town Oktoberfest—all featuring great live music, beer and wine tastings, and local food.
Jack Helder works as a writer/producer in Lansing, and is a lover of Old Town, showing his Salukis and fly fishing.
Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.
Portable Feast and Friends
Spiral dance club
Rehabbed Walnut Street School
Brandon Sanders and Foxey
All Photographs © Dave Trumpie