Grand River and Abbott Park District


The Park District redevelopment project is planned for a multi-acre area at the northwest corner of Abbot Road and Grand River Avenue. The project involves the land of the long-vacant and blighted commercial buildings on Grand River Avenue between Peoples Church and Abbot Road, now owned by the developer, as well as other properties owned by the developer, properties owned the City of East Lansing, and properties owned by the East Lansing Downtown Development Authority (DDA).

More Information about the Project

Improvement Ideas


    City Sqaure   


    Author:     Makenzie Brown   


    Principle:     Culture is Key   



MSU accommodates a huge number of international students, myself included and thus why I think it’s so important to consider culture as a good city principle to keep in mind when developing projects. In this class we have explored several different city squares across the world and I believe the Grand River and Abbott construction would be an ideal place East Lansing’s very own city square. A city square would act as an awesome cultural hub for all of Lansing’s residents.

The city square would focus on creating a place of belonging for all age groups, ethnicities, religions, languages, and personalities. Almost every city in the world has a square, of some sort, that gives culture a home. My hometown Glasgow, Scotland has its own square called ‘George Square’ and it is used all year round. If East Lansing followed suit I think it would bring tremendous benefits to our community as a whole. Ideas for using the square involve having a Christmas market to celebrate a holiday followed by billions all over the world. Other cultural experiences such as Chinese new year or craft beer festivals or Mardi Gras or highland games all would be awesome ways to use the square. Then on top of having different festivals throughout the year, food trucks could be permanently located in and around the square. A Chinese food truck, American food truck, Indian food truck, British food truck, Italian and so on. I know Drexel University in Philadelphia homes plenty of food trucks and they are used and loved by all of the people. I would love MSU to have the same amenity.


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    Band Stand   


    Author:     Makenzie Brown   


    Principle:     Citizen Centered Development   



1. Michigan State and the Lansing area is seriously lacking entertainment of all sorts and kinds. In the past we had an Amphitheater and my idea is to bring one back. The new available space on Grand River, East Lansing’s main hub for students and residents, is an ideal location for an Amphitheater to be located. What is really special about this project is that it ties in so many good city principle’s, creating a strong idea for improvement. It connects to community involvement, culture, creativity, and citizen centered development. What more could you ask for?

An Amphitheater is an open air venue for entertainment. The entertainment I had in mind would be performances by local bands and even alumni. Small shows or plays and even orchestras. Creating an Amphitheater that houses maybe 2,000 people max provides local talent with the opportunity to get recognized and appreciated, which is awesome for our community. Not only that, residents can experience and enjoy live entertainment without having to trek to Detroit, for example. Moreover, this is a structure that is visually appealing and would really create a wow factor to MSU’s campus and maybe even something we could be nationally recognized for in the long run. Within a city it is the people that are at the heart of the city. This creation allows the people of our Lansing community to function better and influence our community positively.




    Farmer's Market   


    Author:     Makenzie Brown   


    Principle:     Economic Impact of Small Businesses   



Grand River has so much potential and there are so many brilliant ways to make this space awesome. A good city principle I am very passionate about is economic impact of small businesses. The creation of a farmer’s market would really compliment this principle. A farmer’s market is a physical retail marketplace featuring foods sold directly by farmers to consumers. Typical foods that are sold from stands or tables are fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, beverages, etc. Lansing lacks places to get local fresh produce so a farmer’s market is perfect to bring that aspect to Grand River.

The creation of a famer’s market will not only generate business for local farmers but also work as a social gathering. Markets all across the world bring in heaps of people that are locals and also tourists. They are an attraction and attribute to many cities. When visiting New York, I went to Union Square Greenmarket. It was incredible and ever since I look for farmer’s markets wherever I go. They are fun and exciting and force conversation and interaction. All round a great way to create connection with our community, while simultaneously generating business for our residents.


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    Food: Bringing People Together Since the Beginning of Time   


    Author:     Hunter Kulka   


    Principle:     Public Spaces   



Public areas are essential to have a cohesive inclusive community. Currently East Lansing has a large divide between the students of Michigan State University and the residents of East Lansing. Part of the reason for this divide is that there is not a location for these two groups to mix and interact with each other. In order to have a more cohesive community we must generate a public area that serves purpose to both groups. Having a more cohesive community serves many benefits to the city so this is something that we should strive to achieve.

Currently the plans at the Park District call for there to be retail space on the first floor of the development. I think that this should be used as a “food court” instead. This type of environment would be excellent for both groups to interact with each other. This could serve multiple purposes; a place of diversity, and a place for productivity. Having a food court would lower the cost for restaurants to open which, this is excellent for diversity as can be seen at the Reading Terminal Market. The city could offer wireless internet for its residents at this place. The large seating area that would be here would make an excellent place for students and families to eat and get work done. Having that place where they interact would greatly improve the cohesiveness of the city.




    The Spartan Lifestyle: Go Green   


    Author:     Hunter Kulka   


    Principle:     Go Better Green   



Being the home to Michigan State University, Go Green is something that East Lansing hears a lot. However, this “Go Green” isn’t in support of the athletic department at MSU. Instead this represents the need to shift towards renewable energy and the impact that it can have on the community. With the shift in consumer preferences towards electric cars we need to find ways to help charge these cars, and help save the environment. Solar power is becoming more efficient and affordable with the new advancements in technology.

The Park District is a perfect place to help the city Go Green. The Park District is a large development with a lot of unused valuable real estate, the roof. The roof should be fitted with solar panels and wired down to the parking garage and into the power grid. This would allow the parking garage to be outfitted with free charging stations for electric cars, as well as feed any surplus energy into the power grid, lowering the cost of electricity for consumers. With the potential benefits that are present by putting solar panels on the roof, we can’t let this valuable real estate go to waste.


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    Connecting Community at MSU   


    Author:     Katherine Bouma   


    Principle:     Connectivity   



While East Lansing is a university town, it lacks the sense of community like Atlanta, one of the top university cities in the world. At Georgia Tech, strong partnerships are built between the surrounding industry, government, and businesses and the university. An inclusive environment between students and community is apparent and this university produces the most of engineers of any university. By incorporating 100 centers for interdisciplinary research and collaborative student centers, its students are equipped for a better world view. upon graduating. These key connections are not apparent in the MSU community. A seemingly impassable barrier of streets like Michigan Avenue and Grand River exists to create almost two separate communities. East Lansing's government has made it quite clear: the university is its own entity and residents of East Lansing are not meant to be intertwined with the university culture. There is much debate as to what will be made of the Grand River/ Abbott intersection.

Instead of contributing to this separate culture within the city, this project can be the beginning of a better-connected community. W,Y,X architects have proposed a unique way of connecting the community. A proposed "loop" between Grand River, Michigan Avenue, and the River Trail will be able to connect residents and university life and vice versa. The proposed project could be used to be a starting place or connecting point in this loop with inclusive community businesses and student centers. By creating a physical path, less resistance is in place of bridging the gap between students, staff and residents in the community. By connecting all stakeholders, paths can be crossed, both physically and creatively to exchange ideas about a more encompassing sense of community.




    A Space Should Be More Than Just Profit   


    Author:     Katherine Bouma   


    Principle:     Mixed Use   



While many of the development plans in this space have been centered around what kind of business can be built to create the most profit, developers fail to see the importance of mixed use. In East Lansing, renters provide 66.5% of the total housing in the town. This high number correlates with the student population of MSU and LCC. While developers seek to put more businesses in developments like Abbott/Grand River development, what EL needs is a broader range of affordable rental properties. While in the downtown area, there are many unaffordable rental options. Including a wider range of pricing options leads to a more diversified area. I propose a different approach to the structuring of typical apartment developments. By creating smaller apartments with less square footage, developers can charge less and have more units. Renters will have the option to spend more on more luxurious, larger apartments or smaller, more affordable apartments by creating this mixed-use development.


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    Cosmopolitan Canopy   


    Author:     Katherine Bouma   


    Principle:     Inclusivity   



Creating a “Cosmopolitan Canopy” in the Grand River/ Abbott area in the form of a marketplace have the potential to bring East Lansing to more progressive town. As of now, developers are vying for the most profitable plan for the space. A marketplace has the potential to bring financial and challenge the divided East Lansing culture. While examples like the Reading Market bring in vast amounts of people from different backgrounds, East Lansing’s community has the potential to do that on a much smaller yet just as diverse scale. A marketplace with vendors from backgrounds as diverse as its residents will create a place for people to explore cultures they may not have been familiar with prior. Examples may be an Asian food vendor selling their unique foods or a smaller scale school supplier for students. The opportunities would be endless for the kinds of vendors that could sell at a local marketplace. These cultural communities can converge and create an inclusive environment for people that never would have considered stepping outside their natural environments.
East Lansing is unique in that it brings together people from backgrounds from all over the world and people from every stage in their lives. From older, more educated professors to foreign exchange students to high schoolers in the area, East Lansing has the potential to bring people together into this “canopy”. As of now, East Lansing is a very divided town. The residents and university do not intermingle due to the barrier of town gown. The area of Grand River and Abbott are conveniently located between the university and the residential areas of East Lansing. By creating a space not meant specifically for a certain group, an inclusive environment may be created. As the Good Practices in Urban Development analysis states, “Basic economics posit that any barrier to participation – physical, technological, cultural or institutional – effects efficient allocation of resources, organization of production, exchanges, consumption, and distribution of benefits.” Not only would the collective marketplace of different backgrounds promote inclusivity, it would be economically beneficial as well. These barriers are very apparent within the East Lansing community. With a marketplace where people can intermingle with those different from their own, barriers can be broken down and a more inclusive, progressive East Lansing can be possible.


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    Green Spaces   


    Author:     Katherine Malhotra   


    Principle:     Community Place   



Although Michigan State's campus is filled with lots of foliage and greenery, something that is missing is a community park. For instance, when you are driving/walking down Grand River, it is building after building with no good places to sit outside to eat your food, to socialize, or to come together and have events at. I believe that if there is a small park that people would have picnic tables, benches, and amenities to have events at, it could provide a little bit of green space in between all of the towering buildings.
For example, the Lawn on D in Boston is in the Seaport district which is basically all restaurants, company buildings, or apartments. There's no greenery around, but they placed the Lawn on D in between all of the towering buildings and it allows for everyone around to eat their lunch together, come together and hangout and relax on the abstract designed swings, play fun yard games, or even to see small concerts at. It's good to have a place where you can unwind, relax, and have fun amidst all of the busy noise, buildings, and people.
I think East Lansing would really benefit from this because it will help bring the community together by having the park host endless events, add nature to the strip of buildings, and make everyone from different parts of the community feel welcomed to use this space. I could imagine people grabbing food from a restaurant then walking over to the park to eat it outdoors with their friends, or people coming together on a boring afternoon and to play fun yard games the park has to offer, or going to the park to watch a local band play.


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    Murals for Parks   


    Author:     Carla Castillo   


    Principle:     Art and Culture Unite   



Expressing yourself as an individual can be difficult at times, but there lies a greater difficulty when there is a community attempting to express themselves. How can we change this? Murals! Perhaps murals will not completely change the difficulty of expression, but it will improve the idea unity. Murals such as the one displayed above, can bring an atmosphere of community by enhancing the park’s visual and environmental value. This mural was painted in Weslaco, TX at the Gibson Park. This park used to have a bad reputation due to its unsafe environment. The park was later then adopted by Weslaco High School and has daily beautifications! When this mural was placed, the community of Weslaco gained the sense of community through this mural of art and expression.
My proposal, is that we implement murals within parks and create that sense of community by utilizing culture. There are distinct cultures within society, and it is our duty as a generation to have every culture represented as much as possible.
So, why a park? A park is the perfect place due to the young audience that is present along with family. Parks are created to bring a sense of community by the bonding off adrenaline and swings. Being able to implement community and bringing culture, will help bring awareness. This idea of murals within a park, is beneficial due to the unity and bonds that are being created through art. Art is known to be expressive, and can portray emotions that can lead to unification.


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