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Home News  Phoenix Risen: A special section for a special project
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Wednesday, March 30,2011

Phoenix Risen: A special section for a special project

by BERL SCHWARTZ

In 2007, City Pulse was about to publish a short story that the Accident Fund Insurance Co. of America was going to adapt the Ottawa Power Station to be its headquarters. We didn’t know much more, but we knew it was a hell of a story, so we waited till the last minute to seek comment because we didn’t want word to spread to other media about our exclusive before we could publish it.


Among those we called were Randy Hannan, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero’s spokesman. Hannan’s reply was that our information was inaccurate — and if we published it he’d never speak to City Pulse again. Read between the lines.


I found out much later that had we published our story, it would have appeared literally on the day that the board of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the Accident Fund’s parent company, was hearing about the project for the first time. There was serious concern that the board would be angered by reading about it in the press first.


Hannan offered a horse trade: a better story if we waited: the inside scoop on how the deal came to pass. Thus, in October, two days after the big outdoor announcement led by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, we published a detailed account of the negotiations that resulted in one of the biggest development stories in Lansing’s history. (Thanks, Randy.)


Since then, we’ve stayed on top of it with dozens of stories. The depth of our coverage not only kept our readers informed but won us the respect of the parties involved, including the Accident Fund and the Christman Co., the project’s contractor.


So, when I went to them with my idea for this special section, they agreed to cooperate, thus giving us the entree we needed to make this section possible as well as exclusive photos that the Accident Fund had hired LCC’s Ike Lea to take throughout the project.


The result is roughly 11,000 words and 20 images covering the history of both the building and the deal making that led to its transformation into the Accident Fund’s campus-like setting on the Grand River; the design phase; and the economic impact of this project.


There was increasingly serious talk a few years ago that this magnificent building just needed to come down. The Accident Fund, though, approached it not as too big, which had been the seemingly insurmountable hurdle, but as not big enough. The result was a plan that included the brilliantly designed addition. The lesson is, of course, is age old: think outside the box.


And to think big, which we did a bit of ourselves here at City Pulse in planning this special issue. The result is not only these 28 pages, which we gratefully publish with the support of 23 advertisers, but the biggest issue of City Pulse in our nine-plus years. It’s 52 pages in all, printed unconventionally in two sections. You’ll find the regular issue tucked inside.


Those 28 pages are largely the work of two people: Vince Joy, our production manager and chief designer, and Lawrence Cosentino, our senior writer.


Vince, a Lansing native, came to us in 2009 with a portfolio of outstanding art work. The cover is among his many duties. Our covers have always received mostly favorable comment but never more so than since Vince took them over. He is a talented artist who has contributed numerous original drawings as covers. That they are often done in the middle of the night before he comes to work for the long Tuesday production work of getting the paper to the printer is all the more amazing. His ability to stay in front of a computer to put together this sparkling special section and then to produce our regular edition is beyond my comprehension. Thank you.


Larry Cosentino wrote all — all — of the 10,000 words beyond mine in this special section and took many of the photos. He began working on the stories five or six weeks ago, while still writing stories for papers along the way. I cannot even imagine having done this project without him.


Larry, a Detroit native with both a B.A. and J.D. from MSU, is one of the few who’ve been involved in City Pulse from our beginning in 2001. Originally, he was just going to write about classical music and jazz, his twin passions. Since then he has tackled virtually any topic I’ve thrown at him, including whimsy. When asked to do a Christmas cover story, he wrote a true account titled “Journey to the heart of brightness.” It begins “I took a Jew to Frankenmuth … .” I could go on about Larry, but why bother when you are about to turn the page and see what I mean for yourselves.


So, turn the page!

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