Lansing, Illinois, celebrates past with an eye toward the future
by Melanie Jongsma
LANSING, Ill. (September 2017) – While the construction and plantings at the southwest corner of Ridge Road and Burnham Avenue are visually appealing, Lansing’s new History Plaza also serves a forward-thinking purpose—by improving the entry into the Ridge Road business district, Lansing hopes to attract new businesses and shoppers. The project also includes a “greatly needed” parking lot expansion for the Village Municipal Center and for downtown businesses within walking distance.
The $363,005 project is being 100% funded by the Ridge Road TIF, which will expire in December 2023. According to illinois-tif.com, “TIF funds may be used for costs associated with the development or redevelopment of property within the TIF, allowing blighted, declining and underperforming areas to again become viable….”
During the planning stages, the architects consulted the Lansing Historical Society to gather information on early Lansing heritage, transportation, and industry. Their input led to the five historical themes that the History Plaza will bring to life: Agriculture, Brickyards, Aviation, the Ridge, and Three Municipalities Become One. These themes will be depicted in a series of artistic panels. The panels will all be cut out of aluminum, in the style of scherenschnitte, a German paper-cutting technique. The style pays tribute to Lansing’s German heritage.
Materials, plants, and design throughout the plaza have been carefully chosen to represent specific Lansing themes. For example, sand-colored pavers form the main pathways and represent the sandy ridge—now known as Ridge Road—that was created by receding Lake Michigan. The bricks ringing the central planter pay tribute to the brickyards that dominated our early economy. Native plants have been installed in the landscaping, including Bluestem Prairie Grass (our state grass) and White Oak (our state tree).
Final plantings around the Lansing History Plaza are scheduled to be installed in spring of 2018.