New Downtown Lansing Accident Fund HQ Reflects Commitment to Michigan’s Cities
On Tuesday in Michigan’s capital city, a brawny relic that once powered Lansing’s industrial age roared back to life as a magnet for the knowledge-based economy many in Michigan say is key to the state’s future.
In transforming the Ottawa Street Power Station from abandoned urban brownfield to state-of-the-art offices for its expanding national worker’s compensation business, Accident Fund Holdings delivered a statement that will echo around the country. Accident Fund and its owner — Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan — have given people who care about redevelopment, urban revitalization, environmentally sustainable construction and historic preservation architecture a reason to come to Lansing.
I lived in Lansing for six years in the late 1990s. Anyone who has called mid-Michigan home knows why the restoration of the Ottawa Street Power Station is a really big deal. Nestled along the west bank of the Grand River, the power station sat idle and decaying since 1992, its monolithic smokestack harkening back to this community’s 20th century industrial prominence as the place where Oldsmobile was born. The plant blocked pedestrian use of the Grand River’s west bank. It sits squarely between the beautiful Lugnuts baseball park and convention center on the river’s east side, and the one major downtown hotel on the west side of the river.
Both in substance and in symbolism, the new Accident Fund headquarters transforms an aging relic of Lansing’s past into a state-of-the-art catalyst for the region’s growth and future prosperity.
Preserving the Art Deco masterpiece and moving in 650 workers now and up to 500 more over the next 10 years gives another boost to mid-Michigan as a magnet for insurance and financial services jobs. Companies like Jackson National Life Insurance Company, Delta Dental Plan of Michigan, Auto-Owners Insurance and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan have headquarters and major operations in the mid-Michigan region. Blue Cross, in fact, is moving its mid-Michigan workforce of approximately 300 into the former headquarters of Accident Fund on Capitol Avenue, ensuring a stronger workforce presence for Lansing and boosting the downtown’s vitality and quality of life.
The construction team – supervised by Christman, with architecture partner HOK – employed environmentally sustainable practices, ensuring that more than 98 percent of the scrap from the project avoided landfills. Most of the construction crews were hired from Michigan companies, 106 Michigan-based suppliers and companies were involved and the permanent furniture and furnishings were bought from Michigan firms.
On March 30, the Lansing City Pulse dedicated a special section to the project. Headlined “Phoenix Risen,” the articles provide a community view of how this project came to be, and what it means for Lansing’s future.
Blue Cross is proud to add the Ottawa Street Station to our growing list of investments in Michigan’s core cities. BCBSM renovated the vacant Steketee’s department store in downtown Grand Rapids for our West Michigan operations. As mentioned previously, we are moving 300 Blues employees into downtown Lansing. And in May, the Blues will begin moving 3,000 workers into downtown Detroit’s GM Renaissance Center from the suburbs.
These investments in Michigan’s urban cores are more than feel-good storylines – they are good for our business and save us many millions of dollars in costs down the road. But they also do feel good – because cities that buzz with workers are cities that attract more companies and more jobs for the regions around them.
Blue Cross and its Accident Fund subsidiary are here in Michigan to stay – and yeah, we feel pretty good about helping bring Michigan’s cities back.
Andrew Hetzel is vice president for Corporate Communications for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.