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04-26-21 | Feature

Reinvigorating Lansing's Riverfront Through Partnership

Rotary Park
by LAP, Inc.

Downtown Lansing, Michigan's Rotary Park is a 2.25-acre gathering place along the Grand River. Designed by landscape architectural firm, Landscape Architects and Planners, Inc. (LAP), to promote economic development, the new park has become a vibrant, multi-use destination with an ADA accessible kayak launch, retained beach, a lighted 'forest', a venue for small concerts and events, and a tiered concrete embankment with steps down to the river.
The Shiawassee Street Bridge spans the Great River and by reclaiming a space under the bridge, the HUB was created as an event space with a stage and suspended LED lights. The color-changing fixtures operate with the beat of the music during live performances and are able to illuminate the area for art shows and other events. The design included wall washing on the side of the bridge that can be remotely controlled and change color.
Murals at the HUB, or Happening Under the Bridge, create an added ambience at night. Fluorescent paint glows from the LED lights hanging from the bridge supports.
Murals at the HUB, or Happening Under the Bridge, create an added ambience at night. Fluorescent paint glows from the LED lights hanging from the bridge supports.
Along the river, a 165-foot-long concrete stair embankment with recessed LED lights set just under the overhang of each seat wall provides a place for visitors to pause and watch the passing boats.
Along the river, a 165-foot-long concrete stair embankment with recessed LED lights set just under the overhang of each seat wall provides a place for visitors to pause and watch the passing boats.
Along the river, a 165-foot-long concrete stair embankment with recessed LED lights set just under the overhang of each seat wall provides a place for visitors to pause and watch the passing boats.
The 20' tall, stainless-steel sculpture named "Inspiration" is uplit with lighting set into the concrete below and reflects the glow from the adjacent Lighted Forest. Hung between tree branches, the forest lights change color and are designed to hold up to the year-round weather in Michigan. Seated tables set beside the sculpture allow visitors to take in the park's features as well as views to the contained sand beach just below.
The 20' tall, stainless-steel sculpture named "Inspiration" is uplit with lighting set into the concrete below and reflects the glow from the adjacent Lighted Forest. Hung between tree branches, the forest lights change color and are designed to hold up to the year-round weather in Michigan. Seated tables set beside the sculpture allow visitors to take in the park's features as well as views to the contained sand beach just below.
String lights and canopy shade sails were installed over the walkway to define the path along the embankment and to create an open space plaza for day and night use. Additional seating and tables, including free standing tables from Sitescapes, allow for large gatherings and events on the riverfront.

Rotary Park is located 2 blocks east of Michigan's State Capitol and immediately north of the Lansing Conference Center, at the NE quadrant of Michigan Avenue and the Grand River in downtown Lansing. Designed by Landscape Architects and Planners, Inc. (LAP), the new riverfront park showcases the success of a collaborative attempt to create a multi-use destination for residents and visitors.

The philosophy behind this project was to rejuvenate an outdoor space to attract people, create a new vibe, and demonstrate a reinvestment in downtown. This philosophy included generating funding from private sources while utilizing public land, thereby creating a public/private partnership. As a result, the project entailed the renovation of a worn and tattered urban space located on public parkland using almost entirely private donations and only a small portion of public "Brownfield money" which will be paid back over time.

The value of this project is reflected in the way in which it was funded, designed, and is now celebrated by the public and the private donors. The design resulted from many different meetings coordinated by the Greater Lansing Community Foundation. The outreach consisted of regular community input on the design and requests for fundraising. The value has been expressed through use of the space from the public and the donors. The local media became intrigued and started writing articles on the unique features of the urban park design, and people's positive reaction to the "quirky" features.

The Beach
Lansing is not located along a lake or ocean. It is a land-locked city in the center of the state. It does however have a river that runs through the center of its urban core. As a distinct contrast to the urban surroundings, the designer specified approximately 300 C.Y. of pure, Lake Michigan beach sand. The beach is separated from the river by a 15' wide native landscape buffer and the sand is contained by a pre-cast block retaining wall. When sitting in the sand, the angle at which the beach is elevated above the water provides an "infinity pool" feel, giving the perception that the beach is touching the river. On any given day or evening, many people can been seen using the beach for martial arts classes, yoga, sand volleyball, sunbathing, lounging, or playing in the sand with their children.

The beach serves a secondary purpose of water quality treatment consisting of stormwater detention, filtration, and water polishing. Much of the site's stormwater flows into the beach area. The water then seeps down through the sand, filtering out many of the pollutants and debris. Maintenance staff uses specialized vibrating rakes to remove any debris caught in the sand. The water then percolates through geotextile fabric below the sand, into the ground. During peak rain events, when water accumulates in the beach area the water leaches out through weeps in the retaining wall, into the native landscape buffer, before entering the river.

"The Grand Staircase"
Descending to the edge of the Grand River is a series of concrete stairs and seat ledges. At night, the staircase casts a glow from LED lights strategically placed under the nose of the seat walls. The lights reflect off the water creating a beautiful evening focal point and making the stairways easy to navigate at night. Along the bottom of the staircase are cleats for boats to tie up and dock, including the Princess riverboat which provides tours along the Grand River.

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Riverside Seating
Overlooking the stretch of the middle Grand River, are three bar height tables and three dining height tables with colorful umbrellas perched 7' above the Grand River where one can sit comfortably.

The Delta Dental Plaza
This 6,500 sq. ft. span of virtually unused concrete with no shade and a few scattered picnic tables was transformed into a vibrant plaza featuring a 15' high brick fireplace with open hearths on two sides, expansive shade sails and string lights. 20 tables with 100 moveable chairs allow for flexible seating arrangements. This space can be leased by the public for outdoor catered events that can last into the night. Toward evening the string lights above the plaza start to glow creating a relaxed mood which is reinforced by the amber glow from the fireplace.

The Lighted Forest
Hanging 16' above the ground are custom designed, LED tube lights. With lengths ranging from 2'-3' the lights hang from post mounted cables which crisscross through the mature tree canopy giving the illusion that they are hanging from the trees. These color-changing lights gradually revolve through the colors of the rainbow, creating a wash of colors making the area feel magical.

The Kayak Launch
The ADA accessible kayak launch is for public use but operated by River Town Adventures, a local vendor and watercraft retail store located in close proximity to the park. They provide rentable kayaks and gear for river adventures.

Food Truck Stations
There are a couple of parking spaces in the small parking lot next to the Delta Dental Plaza where food trucks park and offer a variety of dining options.

The HUB (Happening Under the Bridge)
Located under the Shiawassee Street Bridge, which crosses the Grand River, two murals composed by local artists adorn the bridge abutments. Long-throw, color-changing LED lights hang from the bridge supports and illuminate both murals. The east mural features florescent paint. At night, when the LEDs illuminate the mural, the light reacts with the paint and the 10' high and 65' wide mural glows and takes on a 3-Dimensional form. The HUB is designed to be a "flexible, programmable entertainment space". With a simple plug-and-play system, the color-changing lights can be synced with any performance to change colors with the beat of the music.

The Lansing Regional River Trail
The Lansing River Trail connects East Lansing, Michigan State University, Meridian Township, Delhi Township, and soon Mason, Michigan. Running right through the middle of Rotary Park, the interaction between trail and park users played a pivotal role in the park design. Maintaining the flow of the trail while creating these gathering spaces was very important and Rotary Park has now become a destination for people traversing the River Trail.

These features work together to create a park-like environment during the day and a creative, hip venue at night. This dichotomy allows for "convertible programmable spaces" to happen.

There had not been any significant park upgrades or renovations along the river in many years. This long overdue project has the potential to be the catalyst to stimulate future makeovers along the waterfront. Lansing has put out the welcome mat for people to come, discover, relax, and enjoy Rotary Park anytime, day or night.

Team:
Consultants - LAP, Inc.
Matrix Consulting Engineers, Inc.
Construction Manager - Wieland

As seen in LASN magazine, April 2020.

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