Laudations in Lansing

Restored Power Station Receives Preservation Award

Last week the former Ottawa Street Power Station, now home to Accident Fund Holdings, was one of several Michigan businesses to receive the 2011 Governor's Award for Historic Preservation. The building, constructed in 1939 and on a site overlooking the Grand River, provided electricity and steam heat for all of downtown Lansing until the late 1980s, when the Board of Water and Light closed its doors, leaving the 185,000-square-foot plant empty for nearly two decades.

In October 2007 the Accident Fund made the decision to move forward with development firm Christman Company to turn the abandoned plant into a new office. "We watched a lot of developers try to turn the place into a mall or housing and each time it fell through," says Ron Staley, senior vice president and the director of historical preservation at Christman. "But with Accident Fund lots of pieces came together.

"The building is an Art Deco masterpiece," says Staley. "The bricks change color as they go up from the ground but very gradually so that it looks like burning coal. But it wouldn't have necessarily made a good office space without the historic tax credits." One of the first steps in the project was placing the building on the National Register of Historic Places. Brian Conway, state historic preservation officer at the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office, helped with the application, which was approved in 2009.

The entire project, which included the historic restoration, a 105,000 square-foot addition and a parking deck, came with a $182 million price tag. "It was a huge investment for the city," says Staley. Most of the industrial equipment had been removed ten years ago, but what did remain the architect, Elisabeth Knibbe, incorporated.

Some of the work included replicating over 123 windows—most of which were 30 feet tall, and some reaching 90 feet—to be more energy efficient, and the exterior brick, granite and limestone masonry was completely restored.

"We had a great team working together," says Steve Reynolds, vice president of strategic planning and corporate secretary of the Accident Fund, and the executive who led the project. "Christman was great and without them we wouldn't have finished the project on time and on budget, which we did. We couldn't be more please with the outcome."

Construction finished in February and by April approximately 600 Accident Fund employees moved into their new building. "It was a monumental project," says Staley. "At least from a technical stand point, but it was done and it was done right."

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Submitted by sfbayrod at: May 14, 2011
I'm very glad that this structure was saved & renovated for reuse. Though Iive in California now, I remember that power station from my childhood (I grew up in a small town nearby). 40 years ago Lansing city leaders were intent on razing many beautiful old buildings (including the state capitol building), all due to "urban revitalization." Fortunately the capitol building was saved & renovated. It's good to know that the city has moved towards preservation to protect the many treasures of the area.