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Wednesday, September 9,2009

New and old urbanism

Home Tour highlights shades of city dwelling

by Joe Torok
In downtown Lansing, a pulse beats to the rhythms of urban life, warming up before sunrise, pumping vigorously throughout the workday, relaxing in the evening, then skipping a few beats with the bar crowd before drowsing off into the wee hours of the night.

Lee Hladki, president of the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau and a downtown resident living in the new Stadium District complex, describes city living in a similar fashion, noting the daily rise and fall of bustle around his Michigan Avenue home.


"It's kind of like a symphony," Hladki said. "There's also a smell to urban living, the combination of restaurants and coffee roasting, particularly Paramount [Coffee Co.] roasting coffee here in Lansing."


Hladki, along with his wife, Barbara, moved into Lansing over two years ago, downsizing their large family home in Grand Ledge for a downtown condo. Their two-bedroom, two-bath home is one of many urban domiciles to be featured on the Greater Lansing Housing Coalition's (GLHC) downtown-themed Home Tour fundraiser this year. The Hladkis laud Lansing’s walkability, and they appreciate a life less dependent on automobiles. "There's also a sense of calmness living downtown, because you don’t have to get in the car and fight the traffic and find a place to park," Barbara Hldaki said. "There's an ease about it."


The Hladkis' contemporary home is adorned with an antique piano and various pieces of art, including the work of Old Town artists Honora Bird and Richard Galosy, who now lives in California. One highlight of the Hladkis' condo is a spacious corner patio, nested three stories high and decked with chairs and a table. It’s a fabulous place to sip a glass of wine and watch the sun settle into the surprisingly rugged cityscape of downtown Lansing.


 


Slightly removed from the throb of Michigan Avenue, Susan and Michael Wey reside in a much more spacious home at the corner of Sycamore and Ionia streets. Their prominent Victorian home, built in the 1870s and also on this year’s tour, was originally built for a single family and later converted into apartments before it was transformed back into a single family home six years ago.


Retired machinist Michael Wey, 63, has continually improved the house since he and his wife moved in shortly after the restoration. Wey, who is also an experienced finish carpenter, reintroduced oak trim throughout the home. The house boasts many unique architectural details, including translucent portals — some round, others starburst — in various locations just beneath the roofline. Inside, a Wey-built coffered ceiling adds depth and texture to a bright, window lined parlor in the front of the house.


"Living downtown, we can walk to church, we can walk to restaurants and many state facilities," Michael said. "There are a lot of functions happening on the State Capitol lawn. I've done many of those, which I never would have before."


Proceeds from the Home Tour benefit the GLHC, a charitable organization devoted to providing moderate and lowincome people with affordable housing and improving area neighborhoods in a variety of ways, including a new Tuesday Toolman initiative to be launched later this year. The emergency repair program will use volunteer labor and donated materials to assist seniors and the disabled with various additions and remodels, ranging from wheelchair ramps to shower railings.

Singer and songwriter Petula Clark joyously sang of the noise and hurry of downtown, the bright lights and music of the traffic in her famous anthem to cosmopolitan life. We don’t live in and around the Second City or Big Apple, but Lansing does have a bit of downtown moxie, and, according to some of its residents, it appears to be thriving quite nicely.

"I feel privileged and honored to be in an old home like this," Michael Wey said. "I feel privileged to be a part of the downtown atmosphere."



GLHC Home Tour 2009


Noon
– 4 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 13 $15 tickets available at the GLHC office,
Cricket’s Home Furnishings, Great Lakes Chocolate & Coffee, Mole
Hole, O’Leary Paint, Smith Floral and Greenhouses, and Wild Birds
Unlimited.


Greater Lansing Housing Coalition 1017 W. Lapeer, Lansing (517) 372-5980 www.glhc.org


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