‘Transformative’ Allen Place project breaks ground 

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WEDNESDAY, Oct. 21 — Marilyn Crowley would come to the Allen Neighborhood Center’s farmer market as a local student. 

Years later, she became the vice president of investment at MI Community Capitol, which is one of many partners in helping the center expand into Allen Place, a project converting the current complex at 1611 E. Kalamazoo St. in Lansing into a community space with 21 mixed-income housing units, and health and food-focused commercial space, integrative services and programming. The center plans completion by September of next year. 

A groundbreaking on the project to upgrade the Allen Neighborhood Center took place today at the center with remarks provided by Crowley, ANC Director Joan Nelson, Lansing Mayor Andy Schor, Cinnaire CEO Mark McDaniel, and several others. 

“It is the showcase project of community-based economic development,” Crowley said. “It just reflects a high level of care and investment in Lansing’s east side.” 

Words such as “game changer” and “transformative” were used by some of the speakers, such as Mark Burton, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and president of the Michigan Strategic Fund, in pre-recorded remarks. 

“This project is helping to contribute to the economic vitality of the area,” Burton said. 

Construction is already underway after demolition of property on the 1600 block of East Kalamazoo Street began last month to make way for Allen Place. 

Financing for the $11 million project is provided by private donations, a grant from the MEDC, a federal New Market Tax Credit and $850,000 from the State of Michigan Department of the Environment and Great Lakes and Energy for environmental cleanup.

More than 35 prospective tenants of all ages  have applied to occupy the 21 housing units at the property, Nelson told the City Pulse in September. The units are designed to attract people 55 and older who might otherwise leave the neighborhood. 

Plans are in place to improve the center’s incubator kitchen into an “accelerator kitchen,” where entry-level food entrepreneurs will be guided through the process of establishing a business. The “accelerator kitchen” is planned to open in January. 

A “food innovation district” is envisioned by Nelson that extends from Hunter Park on the west, with its year-round greenhouse and acre of cultivated parkland, to Foster Park on the east, with its gardening education center, surrounded by acres of urban farms.

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