Downtown Boasts Boomer Boom
These aren’t necessarily the young professionals that urban planners and economic developers tout as the bedrock of future downtown redevelopment. They may have a touch of grey in their hair.
But a host of 50-plus year-olds are buying properties in Downtown Lansing
developments like Printers Row
and the Stadium District
. These passionate folks extoll Downtown’s virtues (walking is a big one) and revel in the freedom of being on their own, sans kids.
Stadium District and Prudden Place
developer, Pat Gillespie, says as a group, Boomers are “slower to pull the trigger” on a purchase. In part, it's because they are often moving from a sizable home to something smaller, and they know they have to learn to live with small or non-existent yards or storage. But they also know that in return, they’ll get a walkable and convenient lifestyle in return for their troubles.
"The idea of urban living is different for them—desired, but different,” says Gillespie. “We’re noticing the interest is there,”
Marketing to the Boomer generation will get easier as more development occurs in Downtown, but some of them are already walking that way.Making the Move
“We really, truly love it,” says Kim Manning, 53, of life in the heart of the city of Lansing. “We’ve always loved the idea of living in cities, and this is the closest there is.”
For about three years, Manning has lived with her husband, Ad, in the Printers Row development just south of Downtown, at the corner of St. Joseph and Grand Avenue. The pair raised their two children in suburban Virginia, then lived in Holt and East Lansing. When the kids moved out—their daughter is in East Lansing, their son in Chicago—the Mannings decided on a big life change.
They were bullish on Downtown Lansing and liked the thought of being “on the cusp of something new,” Kim Manning says. Plus, spending less time on yard work and upkeep of their home wasn’t such a bad change.
That’s when they bought a unit in Printers Row, which opened in 2007. Kim Manning says she and her husband, an actuary at Jackson National Life Insurance
in Lansing, are enjoying getting out and walking in Downtown. They’re talking about getting bikes.
They also like the restaurants, bars and coffee shops--places like Troppo
and the Firm
—and they love the theaters, particularly Riverwalk Theatre
In short, they love “being in the hub of things, where the action is,” she says.
Some Boomers, like Michelle Filipiak, 52, and her husband David, treat Downtown living as more of a second home lifestyle. They have a home in rural Lapeer County, but spend much of their time at their Printers Row condo.
The Filipiaks are accustomed to secluded country living, so she’s had to get accustomed to the traffic noise from nearby I-496. Otherwise, though, she says the contrasting homes make life fun.
“Because we live out in the country, we were kind of excited to be able to live in the thick of things in the city,” says Filipiak, who has two children in their 20s. “My husband and I were very open to living in the city. We had always talked about having a place in Chicago. The idea of living in the city has always been very attractive to us.”Generational Merger
It’s a similar story for Lee Hladki, president of the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau
Hladki, 63, and wife Barb raised their three kids in Grand Ledge. When their children out left home, the couple decided it was time to try a different lifestyle.
Urban living appealed to them, and they first bought a place at the Motor Wheel Lofts
on Saginaw Street, then moved into the Stadium District three years ago. They live in a third floor apartment on Cedar Street, facing Downtown.
Their kids, for one, are fans of their parents' urban approach to life.
“They were impressed that their parents would go on this kind of adventure,” Hladki says. “In terms of the experiment, we’ve really enjoyed it. A lot of people are interested in what we’re doing,” he says.
The compliments from young people aren’t just coming from their children. Hladki says he and his wife have only encountered positive response to being Downtown, despite being older than many residents.
“On a couple occasions we’ve been invited to their parties,” he says of his younger neighbors. “There’s no sense of discrimination just because we’re old enough to be their parents.”
The couple enjoys exploring the Downtown Lansing landscape—their favorite trek is along the Grand River to Old Town
and its restaurants—and trips to Lansing Lugnuts
Walkability is key to any thriving downtown, Hladki says.
Lansing’s Downtown has picked up steam since he and his wife moved in, Hladki says, and now has a nice mix of Boomers and young professionals and students.
“I tell people to stand on the Shiawassee Bridge," he says, "and when you see all that new development you will have an entirely different impression of our community and what’s happening,” he says.
Living in the Stadium District also helps him market the Convention Bureau and the city, a nice fit considering that the Bureau is in the same building. Common Ground
The Boomers living in Downtown Lansing universally agree on a couple things. Crime, despite stereotypes about urban living, is not much of an issue. They simply haven’t seen or heard of much, and there’s a pretty strong security presence.
And ask them what Downtown needs most and, almost before the words are out, they exclaim, “a grocery store.”
Hladki believes the new and improved Lansing City Market
has upgraded itself and at least offers mealtime basics.
Other than that, most of the Boomers just want to see more of everything—more niche businesses, more restaurants and more activities in general.
A Baby Boomer himself, local developer Gene Townsend, 57, has been a major proponent of walkable downtown communities. He's talked for years about marketing Downtown Lansing to Baby Boomers looking for more stimulation in their lives.
He lives in Old Town, where his Lenawee Company is based, and says city living is simply “more stimulating.”
“Every time you’d walk out of your house, you’d talk to someone who had something interesting to say," he says. "You just never run out of interesting human contact."To receive Capital Gains free every week, click here.
John Foren is a recovering newspaper editor who is enjoying writing again.
Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.
Lee and Barb Hladki's view of Downtown Lansing
Kim Manning's home in Printer's Row
The Hladkis in their Stadium District home
Motor Wheel Lofts
Michelle and David Filipiak at Printer's Row
All Photographs © Dave Trumpie