Anchor-Intro: A team of builders is restoring a 100 year old building in Old Town Lansing. They’re drawing people to the area. Reporters, Na Ree Lee and Hyun Woo Park are originally from South Korea. They are studying media arts and technology at Michigan State University. They find Korea doesn’t need suburban sprawl. It DOES need tall buildings and it could use old buildings like those in old town.
I am Na Ree. And I am Hyun Woo.
(Na Ree)We went to the Walker Building on the corner of Grand River and North Washington. Workers were drilling holes and sawing boards.
Gene Townsend is in charge of the project.
(Hyun Woo)We asked why is it so important to revitalize this building?
“This building sets on one of the main corners of old town, for many years it’s been derelict but it’s essentially a strong building and so we thought it was important to bring this building back to a useful life.”
(Hyun Woo) Townsend wants to keep all the architecture in old town.
“This building has stood on this corner for over a century. And a lot of people that lived in Old Town and some of the people that have worked on this building remember when there was a grocery store here and that it was a popular place for people to come to buy groceries. And then after a grocery store it was a union hall here on the second floor and people would come to the union hall for parties.”
(Na Ree) The City of Lansing gave $190,000 to restore windows and bricks and to remove hazards like lead based paint and asbestos. The building owner is investing $540,000 himself.
(Hyun Woo) There will be two different businesses and five one-bedroom apartments. MSHDA or The Michigan State Housing Development Authority added $300,000. It wants a mix of low and high income people in Old Town.
(Hyun Woo) Not all Americans like old buildings. And not all Koreans like old buildings either.
(Na Ree)This was a radio news report in 2009 from Seoul. The government wanted to tear down an old neighborhood of two story buildings. They wanted to replace it with skyscrapers. Five people died in the struggle. Gene Townsend was not surprised by the events in our country.
“One problem with vertical buildings is that there is very little interaction from one floor plate to another. Wide floor plates create more innovation than small floor plates in a vertical format because people run into each other more they’ve got hall ways and people when they meet at hallways have longer conversations than when they meet in elevators.”
(Hyun Woo) Korea has tried to copy the U.S. with tall buildings. But we don’t have a choice. We are running out of space. Michigan has only 10 million people. But we have 50 million living on the same sized territory. New apartments in Korea are 30 floors or higher.
“There is a community life at the side walk level. Where People run into each other and learn something new almost every time they walk out of the door. In a city of skyscrapers that happens less often. And so I think for that reason urban revitalization that’s taken place in America that’s included high rise has not proven very successful.”
(Hyun Woo) The Walker Building left footprints that become blueprints for buildings in the future. Old ideas are still good for building communities.
I would like to live in a village filled with American style houses so I can see the sky sometimes…
(Na Ree) I want to live in an apartment for many years in the future. But at the end of my life I would like to have my feet back on the ground.
For Michigan Now, I’m Na Ree Lee.
And I’m Hyun Woo Park.