By Kristen Daum
The State News
Lansing — Local government leaders are aiming to improve the economy and landscape of Michigan Avenue throughout the next decade with a partnership announced Thursday.
The Corridor Improvement Authority unites East Lansing, Lansing Township and Lansing in an effort to strengthen the avenue's stretch from the Capitol to MSU.
The authority's goals include beautifying the streetscape, strengthening the roadway and utility systems and drawing more innovative business to the region, East Lansing Mayor Sam Singh said.
"The days of looking at our communities as separate are over," Singh said. "As we come together — the city of East Lansing, Lansing and Lansing Township — only great things can happen."
The authority, which has been discussed by the cities' staff and leaders for the past 10 months, is the first step in creating a unified force to streamline the avenue's look, said Bob Trezise, president and CEO of Lansing's Economic Development Corp.
"We're going to wake up in the next year and especially the next 10 years from now, and people are definitely going to see that 'wow' factor," Trezise said.
The authority marks the first multijurisdictional partnership in Michigan since the passage of the 2005 Corridor Improvement Act, which provides communities with the tools necessary to revitalize their commercial districts.
Although MSU isn't an official partner in the organization, officials stressed the importance of the university's role in creating the new Michigan Avenue.
"They've been in a couple meetings so far," Trezise said. "MSU has definitely shown its support and has been involved in the dialogue."
MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon did not return calls from The State News on Thursday.
The authority will be governed by a board composed of representatives from the three municipalities.
The representatives will be selected by each government's leading body and should develop a long-term plan for the authority within the following two years, Trezise said.
Funding for the authority is expected to come from state economic grants and programs that would keep tax revenue in the region, officials said.
Partial funding also might come from Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero said.
"I heard the governor's State of the State address, and I heard her say very clearly she is promoting this kind of collaboration, that she's willing to put up dollars," Bernero said. "I met with treasury officials recently, and there's going to be real dollars attached to this type of activity. If we can get our act together … there is help available from the state."
Granholm's spokeswoman Liz Boyd said she hadn't heard about the authority or any discussions regarding its funding, but added that it doesn't mean such discussions haven't taken place among state government officials.
"No one here is familiar with it," Boyd said. "Certainly, we're interested in hearing more about the plans for the authority and what role they might have for state government."
Keeping MSU students in the region is another effect officials want the authority to have, Bernero said.
"We have this great talent that is attracted by world-class institutions … but we haven't been able to capture that talent," he said. "We want these students to dig in and be comfortable in our communities, not just for the four years or five years that they're a student, but long after."
What impact this authority specifically might have on the three communities will become clearer in the future, Singh said.
"This is definitely a long-term plan," he said. "Each of us have projects going on in our own regions — this will be more coordinated as we go forth."