What Would Jane Say? The Jane of course is Jane Jacobs the legendary exponent of livable cities. Jacobs, who at the time lived in New York City, wrote the single most quoted and followed book on urban design and creating cities that people want to live in. In essence, she believed that cities create or invent themselves and the less city planners muck with them the better. She was the Darwin of urban planning and her book, â€œThe Death and LifeÂ of Great American Citiesâ€, written in 1961Â is worth finding and reading.
I kept Jane in mind when I went of a field trip to the new city market on Lansingâ€™s riverfront which opened this weekend. The first thing that comes to mind is â€œsoft openingâ€ which is a euphemism that means â€œweâ€™re opening early before everything is finished and we hope no one noticesâ€ because we need the rent. Â And thatâ€™s what I encountered.
Parking is a little problematic, especially in the snow, since there was only one shoveled walk area and that was a bit treacherous. For a city which is pushing residents and businesses to shovel walks within 24 hours this was a major oversight.Â
Entering from the east there were no signs to indicate â€œenter hereâ€ so you pretty much had to just open a door to see what was behind door 1.Â
Once inside, and immediately to the left, was the menâ€™s bathroom and a few yards up was the womenâ€™s bathroom, both in need of a door of some sort. Iâ€™ve always thought it tacky to be able to watch folks zip up, wash their hands or comb their hair.Â
When I was in the vendor area, I was under-whelmed. I was especially hit by how small the Market feels. The layout was sort of like a tired flea market. Words may not adequately describe what I felt, but maybe no charm, lack of ambiance or aesthetics will do it. Jane would’ve been shaking her head.Â
I kind of liked how in the old market as you walked down an aisle there were stalls on both sides. Maybe thatâ€™s the case at the new market, but it didnâ€™t feel quite the same.Â
The seating area for folks wanting to snack or rest was especially tacky, but itâ€™s possible the market is waiting for the delivery of some cool chairs and tables. This place desperately needs a choreographer. Plus it seemed like aÂ grey battleship, a few fruits and vegetables providing the only color.In addition to just wanting to check out the new market, my spouse and I were on a mission to pick up some Gouda at the cheese man. Alas, we were confronted by the sign â€œopening soonâ€. The crowd was sparse for late morning and generally the vendors and the customers looked sad even though the sun was pouring in.Â
Little things were bothersome, like the plastic plumbing vents snaking from the bathrooms up a post and out the roof. It was disconcerting, to say the least, and as other vendors set up with cooking equipment there may be even more vents squirreling around.Â
Now back to the soft opening. Maybe when the real market opens and all the stalls are filled and outside vendors are peddling bright veggies and fruit Iâ€™ll feel better. Also once the old â€œoutdatedâ€ and misplaced market is torn down maybe everything will fall in place.Â
One thing for sure the new market has the best view of the new Accident Fund campus across the river, which by the way will need a great foot bridge. Think Grand Rapids here.Â Jane would be nodding now, but…
…what would Jane say about the market in general?Â First, sheÂ would be terribly disappointed that no one was able to save the original market and then she might add that in 50 years, or so, when the new building is covered with rust it might just have the character it needs to be a pleasant place to linger on a Saturday morning. Canâ€™t wait for the tapasâ€™ bar and the smell of fresh food cooking on a grille. I hope they can make their space look like it has been there a few decades. Later in the day, another Lansing on Line contributor visited the Market and found a much happier group of shoppers which proves that the real test of the Market will come in a few months when it’s either bustling with shoppers or it’s just a sleepy building. Watch a video on the soft opening of the City Market by clicking here.
Here’s a video of the Lansing City Market’s ‘Soft Opening’ by Bonnie Bucqueroux