What is this venue? What will it be used for?
The Ovation is a music and arts venue that can host up to 2,025 standing patrons for live music, provide a new home for the Lansing Public Media Center and an abundance of space for community use.
This venue will be a major, day-to-night and year-round attraction that everyone can come to associate with Downtown Lansing. It will illuminate on a statewide scale what Lansing residents already know to be true: that we are a city of doers committed to cultivating arts, culture, and economic growth.
Where will this venue be located?
This venue will be located at the corner of S. Washington Square and W. Lenawee Street in Downtown Lansing. This is currently the empty parking lot on the northeast corner of this intersection. The project will involve the rehabilitation of the vacant building at 520 S. Washington, and add new construction to the north all the way to the corner.
Why did you choose this specific location?
This location was chosen based on construction feasibility, economic impact, and the following factors:
- Its potential to transform a highly visible, under-used space into the first vibrant landmark many visitors see when entering the Capital City.
- It will bridge Downtown and REO Town by drawing foot traffic to a currently quiet space.
- It will link attendees with a number of food and shopping options, as it is located within minutes’ walking distance of the restaurants and shops along South Washington Square.
- The numerous mural and public art opportunities in this space.
Are you going to reuse an existing building to house this, or build it from the ground-up? Will anything be demolished?
The majority of this venue will be built from the ground-up, and nothing will be demolished. This location is currently a brownfield land site, meaning that it is previously developed land that is not currently in use due to the need for environmental cleanup. This project is a hybrid adaptive reuse project, meaning that an existing empty building will be rehabbed to build part of the venue. The old Lansing Credit Exchange at 520 S. Washington Square will be rehabbed as part of this project.
How will this impact surrounding neighborhoods? Will it be noisy?
We expect minimal noise in the surrounding neighborhoods. The Cherry Hill subdivision is two blocks away and because of the size of these blocks we expect a negligible noise impact in that residential area.
Who will use this space?
Touring musical acts and a number of local community groups will use this space. The following are some examples of how this space will be used and which groups could be involved, as many have already expressed interest in using the space:
- National & local concerts
- Lansing Public Media Center
- Capital City Film Festival
- Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center
- All of the Above Hip Hop Academy
- Community events
- Local nonprofits and school groups
How many floors will the building be? What will floor plans look like?
This will be a two-story building. Floor plans are still preliminary as we’re still working with users, promoters, and partner organizations to nail down the specifics, and these wholly depend on the amount of funds we are able to secure. Still, here is a high-level overview of what each floor will include if fully funded:
- A two-story main stage, a large performance area with a capacity of 1,200 people seated - 1,500 standing for large-scale, national acts
- A second performance area with a capacity of 275 people, for more intimate performances
- A second-story balcony overlooking main stage (250 seated - 400 standing capacity)
- A private party room with a balcony overlooking the main stage (80 seated - 125 standing capacity)
- The roof will be repurposed into a full rooftop bar, with ample seating for food and drink
Where will people park?
There is ample parking to support this venue in Downtown Lansing, and no additional parking will need to be added. Currently, there are 1,562 free surface parking spots within a two-block radius of the venue location, not counting the S. Capitol City ramp which is also less than two blocks away. Most ticketed events will also offer valet parking.
Is there a need for this?
There is a proven need for a venue of this size in our region. Data shows that the corridor between Detroit and Grand Rapids has a notable lack of venues this size (1,000 - 2,000 standing capacity). National acts skip right over Lansing because we lack this venue.
Additionally, interviews with local residents revealed they believe that current performance and entertainment offerings in Lansing are lacking, and are currently traveling elsewhere to see live music and comedy shows. With a venue in our city, this money could stay right here at home.
More specifically, research found that:
- 90% of community residents suggested the need for a large, flexible theater space in Lansing,
- 87% of community residents support the creation of a new music venue in Lansing, and
- almost half of all Lansing residents interviewed said they seek after-work attractions downtown.
How long has this idea been in the works? How has this plan changed over time?
This project has been a long-time coming. The Ovation isn’t a new idea — we’ve been exploring and researching the idea of bringing a music and arts venue to Downtown Lansing for literally decades.
Back in the late 1990s, the City of Lansing conducted a feasibility study assessing building a music and arts venue downtown. The answer, ultimately, was yes — building this would pay off in economic impact. About 20 years later, we began a new feasibility study with AMS Planning & Research in 2019 and Capitol Fundraising Associates in 2020. AMS’s study was later re-run in 2021 to account for a scaled-down version of the idea, and the post-pandemic economy. These studies found that the answer, again, was yes: This region has a need for this venue and can economically support it for the long-term.
How does living in a post-pandemic world affect this plan?
Research still proves that there is a need for this venue and that it can financially succeed. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, we readjusted this plan and re-ran many of our research studies to see how this project would fit into a post-pandemic Lansing.
What's more, this venue will play a critical role in uplifting Downtown Lansing and the region as a whole in post-pandemic economic recovery. While the pandemic caused much of the State workforce to leave downtown and businesses have closed, this venue will be an economic lifeline. Not only will it drive foot traffic and sales to downtown businesses, but it has potential to spark spin-off development and raise real estate values downtown.
Will this space compete for audiences with Hall 224, the new venue on S. Washington Square?
No, because of large differences in size and concepts, this venue is not in direct competition with the new venue on S. Washington Square. In fact, these two venues will help each other succeed; the smaller venue will open more quickly than The Ovation, giving them a chance to reestablish momentum for live music downtown before our opening.
Why is this facility being built if the Lansing Civic Center was torn down in 1999?
The Ovation will be very different from Lansing Civic Center. The Civic Center had a much larger capacity of 6,500 people, compared to The Ovation's capacity of 2,025. The two structures are not similar when it comes to use or market segment. The size and flexible use of The Ovation makes it a much more logistically feasible project for long-term economic sustainability. Additionally, the Civic Center was built four mayoral administrations ago, and our city is a much different place now than it was back then.
Has any independent organization done an analysis regarding the need or financial benefit for this kind of space and how often it will be occupied?
Yes, lots of independent research has been done! Over two decades, experts have conducted two feasibility studies for this project.
Most recently, AMS Planning & Research conducted two feasibility studies (in 2019 and 2021) assessing building a music and arts venue downtown. Capitol Fundraising Associates also conducted research in 2020 to analyze local sentiments and fundraising potential for the project. These studies found that this region has a need for this venue and can economically support it for the long-term. Across all studies, the data points to the success of this project.
Who conducted research for this project?
AMS Planning & Research is a business management consultancy that specializes in defining, refining, and developing ventures in the arts and culture sector. This company is a third-party research organization that has no affiliation with the City of Lansing. Recent projects for which AMS has contributed strategic consulting and research include:
- The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington D.C.)
- The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art
- Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts (Orlando)
- Maryland State Council on the Arts
Capitol Fundraising Associates (CFA) is a multi-client fundraising firm providing board development and program management for clients' fundraising programs. CFA has been working with the City of Lansing on research and fund development for the Music and Arts Venue project.
What specifically did these studies find?
Among many analyses, there were a few standout statistics from each study related to the venue's demand and projected success:
- The Grand Rapids-Lansing-Detroit corridor has a notable lack of venue stock with capacity between 1,500-1,999 (AMS Planning & Research)
- 90% of local residents suggested the need for a flexible large theater space in Lansing (AMS Planning & Research)
- 87% of community residents support the creation of a new music venue in Lansing (AMS Planning & Research)
- According to Lansing residents, locals seek after-work attractions downtown (Capitol Fundraising Associates)
- When asked about Downtown Lansing's weaknesses, the top answer among local interview respondents was that Downtown Lansing shuts down at 5 p.m. and lacks weekend entertainment. This sentiment was brought up by almost half of all those interviewed. (Capitol Fundraising Associates)
- The Ovation has the potential to attract audiences from across the state. Market area findings reflect a primary market of 30-minute drive time and secondary market of 60-minute drive time. Together, these primary and secondary markets span 302 zip codes, and a total of more than 2.7 million people. (AMS Planning & Research)
- The Ovation's primary local market in the Mid-Michigan region is steadily growing, showing potential for audience sustainability for smaller scale events as well. (AMS Planning & Research)
- The construction project will generate an estimated $17.5 million in the local economy, creating 209 total full-time equivalent jobs and generating $1.1 million in taxes and fees for local governments (AMS Planning & Research).
What will be the return on investment for this space?
Research found that this venue’s return on investment for the City of Lansing, local small businesses, and our neighborhoods is expected to be similar to that of Jackson Field. Research estimates a total annual attendance of more than 154,000 patrons — with the average person spending about $22 on a trip to a show at The Ovation, this amounts to $2.28 million in estimated resident spending per year and $2.02 million from non-residents. On an annual basis, operation of the venue and spending by its audiences will generate $12.5 million in the local economy, creating 159 total full-time equivalent jobs and generating $904,000 in taxes and fees for local governments. The community impacts of a new music venue in Lansing transcend the calculated direct and indirect spending to include other less quantifiable benefits like increased quality of life for residents, spin-off development downtown, rising real estate values, new and increased visitation to the city, and service as an anchor for community revitalization.
What was the methodology for this research?
AMS Planning & Research (AMS) conducted surveys, stakeholder interviews, competitive analyses, and background document review to assess the feasibility of The Ovation. AMS’s first study was conducted in 2019, and then later re-run in 2021 to account for a scaled-down version of the idea and the post-pandemic economy.
AMS collected and reviewed more than 35 background documents provided by area organizations and municipal governments, including the Lansing Symphony, Wharton Center, Downtown Lansing Inc., Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau, Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), Lansing Arts Council, and Lansing School District, as well as master planning documents from previous City of Lansing studies. Patron files were obtained from the Lansing Symphony Orchestra and analyzed for comparative demographics, primary and secondary market definition, and development of the ‘profile’ of a typical arts patron in the Lansing region.
AMS engaged in stakeholder interviews to understand the degree of community leadership support for a new cultural hub in Downtown Lansing, as well as expectations about the physical form of a new venue and the types of arts programming it would offer; factors at play in the regional marketplace; and challenges and opportunities to predict whether this project would succeed. Their research also included a community survey measuring current and projected arts and entertainment activity in Lansing, and gathering opinions on current arts and cultural offerings in Lansing.
Capitol Fundraising Associates conducted a feasibility study for this undertaking based on local target audience surveys, 64 one-on-one stakeholder interviews, and conversations with leaders at similar local music and arts centers.
Who will visit this venue?
The Ovation has the potential to attract audiences from across the state. Market area findings reflect a primary market of 30-minute drive time and secondary market of 60-minute drive time. Together, these primary and secondary markets span 302 zip codes, and a total of more than 2.7 million people.
How will this compete with music and arts venues in cities like Detroit or Grand Rapids?
Our research found a significant need for a 1,000 to 2,000-seat venue situated between Detroit and Grand Rapids, drawing audiences from both east and west. This facility isn’t in direct competition with larger venues like Van Andel Arena, Little Caesars Arena, or The Breslin Center.
What about radius clauses for performers?
We took radius clauses into consideration. Radius clauses (a form of non-compete clause used in the live music industry) are not all-encompassing and don’t apply to every band and every tour. AMS’s feasibility study fully accounts for these clauses and still shows the need for a venue of this size in this location.
We already have entertainment and performing arts spaces in the area. Why do we need this?
While our region already has the iconic Wharton Center and unique smaller venues like UrbanBeat and The Robin Theatre, our research shows a gap when it comes to medium-sized music and art venues. Specifically, AMS data shows that there is demand for a flexible, music-oriented venue with a capacity of 1,400 seats and 2,000 patrons in a standing-room configuration. Beyond this need, however, this venue has potential to revitalize Downtown Lansing specifically, and serve as a bridge between downtown and REO Town. Additionally, the management and owners of all the above-mentioned venues are supportive of the project and agree that it is complementary to their venues rather than competitive.
Will the community be able to use this space?
Yes, there will be a number of community resources and connections to local nonprofits and schools. Community rooms will be available for local nonprofits and school groups, and Lansing Promise has offered to bus Lansing School District students to and from the center. Community events will be well situated in both the smaller performance area, multi-purpose rooms, and private party area.
Our research emphasized the importance of community access to the building, its stages, and its common areas. Low-income community members, members of the Lansing School District, and historically marginalized populations were considered in the programming of the space.
Will this include retail space?
Yes, there will be micro-retail spaces on the first floor along South Washington Square. This will bring additional foot traffic to Downtown Lansing and expand this area’s activity farther south.
Beyond performances, what other services or spaces will this building offer? How will this building be used during the daytime?
A number of other resources will ensure the building is operating efficiently from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. as well as in the evening. In addition to shows, the facility also include:
- Micro-retail suites on South Washington Square
- An office suite, used by Lansing Public Media Center
- Capital City Film Festival offices
- A film and video equipment rental library
- Classrooms available to school groups
- Community rooms available for public use
What will a typical evening look like in this area once this venue is built?
Picture this: It’s a Wednesday evening in Downtown Lansing. The Ovation’s block is bustling with activity, as people wander the shops along South Washington Square. A line for the night’s performance begins to emerge and anticipation begins to build. An out-of-town visitor spots the building, prompting them to explore the area. In the space that was once a rundown empty parking lot littered with weeds, there is tourism, culture, and thriving local business.