SOCA Announces 2016 Spruce Up Grant Recipients!

The Saginaw-Oakland Commercial Association takes more steps to “Spruce Up” Lansing

Winners of the Saginaw-Oakland Commercial Association (SOCA) 2016 Spruce Up Grants were announced today. 2016 marks the second year of this exciting opportunity for businesses along the Saginaw-Oakland Corridor to “spruce up” the exterior of buildings with the help of grants distributed by SOCA. This year there were two kinds of grants available: two grants of $500 and one grant for $1000.

The $1,000 Spruce Up Grant was awarded to H. Inc for an ambitious project intended to landscape the hill between the railroad and Prudden Street along Oakland. The landscaping will require the removal of  weed brush and a re-working of the hill to allow for new plants and ornamental grasses.

Stephen Purchase of H Inc. shared his gratitude for the help SOCA offered stating, “H Inc. and the Prudden Tech Centre would like to thank SOCA for its generous contribution toward our efforts to beautify a key stretch of the Oakland corridor. We look forward to adding a splash of color to welcome commuters on their way downtown and to Lansing’s West Side.”

The two $500 grants were awarded to the Biggby at 2002 W. Saginaw, and the El Azteco at 1016 West Saginaw. Both Biggby and El Azteco intend to put the funds toward basic repairs and signage. They also expressed enthusiastic thanks for SOCA’s help in making Lansing’s Westside more beautiful.

Biggby owner, Paula Thompson had this to say about the award, “BIGGBY at the Point is thrilled to accept one of the Spruce Up Grants for 2016. We are proud of our success at the entrance to the Saginaw/Oakland Corridor for the past 9 years and we are honored that SOCA would partner with us to keep our property looking great!“

El Azteco owner, Bobbi London responded, “I’m really grateful for the investment SOCA is making in El Azteco! We have been honored to be a part of the Lansing community for nearly 35 years and are thrilled for the opportunity to make a restaurant Lansing already knows and loves even better.“

To qualify for Spruce Up Grants, and to benefit from the many other ways the Saginaw-Oakland Commercial Association supports local businesses along the corridor, you must be a current SOCA member. The online application for SOCA membership can be found here.

Point West Art and Trail Project Breaks Ground!

Fritz Olsen's artist's rendering of his sculpture, "Prosperity".
Fritz Olsen’s artist’s rendering of his sculpture, “Prosperity”.

The Saginaw Oakland Commercial Association (SOCA), Westside Neighborhood Association (WNA), and Old Oakland Neighborhood Association (OONA) hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the Point West Art and Trail Project today at 10:00am. The groundbreaking was held at “The Point”, where Saginaw meets Oakland, near 2010 W. Saginaw Street on Lansing’s west side. The Point West Art project’s official debut coincides with the recent news of SOCA’s selection of Fritz Olsen of Sawyer, MI, to build “Prosperity,” a 14-foot tall stainless steel sculpture representing a vision of optimism and growth for the Saginaw Street and Oakland Avenue corridor. The sculpture will be installed at the site this fall.

Speakers at the groundbreaking included partnering organization representatives from the Saginaw Oakland Commercial Association (SOCA), Westside Neighborhood Association (WNA), Old Oakland Neighborhood Association (OONA), Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Power of We Consortium, and Arts Council of Greater Lansing, as well as Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, Lansing Council Member Jessica Yorko, artist Fritz Olsen, community supporter Kris Nicholoff, and SOCA Board Members Joe Duris and Caryn Coyle.

The sculpture, Prosperity, will sit atop a base that raise it up as an eye-catching symbol, welcoming visitors and residents alike to the west Lansing business and residential district at the triangular piece of land at the western border of the city where Saginaw Street and Oakland Avenue meet. Prosperity will be surrounded by landscaping that will accentuate the art. The landscaping is being co-designed in consultation with Mr. Olsen by SOCA member business Landscape Architects and Planners, Inc.

Aerial view of the Point West Art and Trail Project.
Aerial view of the Point West Art and Trail Project.

Prosperity was inspired by the dramatic approach that travelers make into West Lansing as drivers and cyclists’ travel up Saginaw Street. “I was inspired by the dramatic approach of the ascending and curving roadways that define this space, the history and the optimism that is present here. The blossoming sails will reflect both the optimism for growth as well as the the ascending curving roadways that define the land. The circle will represents the welcoming nature and strength of the surrounding neighborhoods and communities,”explained the artist, Fritz Olsen, in his project proposal.

Vice President of SOCA Joe Duris said of the project: “The work our communities have done, and the support for this project from so many groups and individuals has been fantastic. It truly is just another example of why west Lansing is such a great place to live, work, and do business, and it’s amazing that we’ll have Fritz’s sculpture here to capture all of the energy and commitment. This is just another step toward creating a more beautiful, unified, and accessible Saginaw and Oakland corridor.

Caryn Coyle, SOCA board member said, “With the public art being installed this summer, the Point West Art and Trail project moves one step closer to it’s goal. While there are vibrant neighborhoods and businesses in the City of Lansing on the west side, there is no clear transition between the City of Lansing and Lansing Township. The art and trail will provide the City of Lansing with a gateway that neighbors and businesses can all celebrate.”

The art project, part of the larger Point West Art and Trail Project, was truly a community wide collaboration in both the planning and financial support that make it possible. It was funded by multiple grants and sources including generous individual and organizational donors, Cities of Service, Lansing Love Your Block, Mayor’s Neighborhood Advisory Board, the Lansing Area Economic Partnership (LEAP) Public Art for Placemaking grant, the Power of We Urban Redevelopment grant, a Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs mini-grant, and a Michigan Economic Development Corporation-backed Patronicity crowdfunding effort.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, who spoke at the press conference, afterward offered words of encouragement for Lansing as a whole, remarking,”This is phenomenal. It’s about neighbors taking ownership. It’s about the city government working in partnership, even followership, because this was an indigenous design. This was at the Grassroots level and bubbled up. This is the opposite of top down, and that’s why it’s going to work beautifully. So, we’re delighted to collaborate with the neighbors and the associations here. It’s just great to see the neighborhood take ownership like this. If we had this throughout the city we would be 100% stronger.”

Our 2016 Spruce Up Grant Program is live!

SOCA is proud to announce the 2016 Spruce Up Grant Program – our 2nd year of this exciting program that aims to improve the exterior appearance of buildings on or near the Saginaw Street and Oakland Avenue corridor!

How does it work? This year there are two kinds of grants available: two grants of $500 and one grant for $1000! To be considered for a Spruce Up Grant, you must:

  • Be a current SOCA member
  • Propose improvements to a building exterior within the SOCA territory. This might involve repairing or replacing signage, painting, landscaping, etc.
  • Return a complete application by Friday, June 17, 2016
  • Agree to be featured in SOCA press releases, social media posts
  • Attend our August 17th, 2016 Business Breakfast to receive a big check (event is from 8 to 9 am, location to be announced)
  • Complete all improvements by Friday, September 30, 2016

Click here to start your online application! Or, click here to view and print a PDF version of the application.

This grant program is 100% funded through SOCA membership fees. It is one way SOCA works to serve our member businesses.

Request for Proposals due May 20

The SOCA Program Manager will

  • help the SOCA Board plan, coordinate, implement, track and finalize existing programs and projects to help grow the number of businesses along the corridor
  • develop new opportunities that align with the mission and goals of the organization

The successful bidder will

  • have a track record of building relationships with decision-makers
  • Have strong analytical and communications skills
  • have experience in organizing and supporting volunteers
  • be a successful fundraiser (grant writing, event planning)
  • understand basic principles of nonprofit financial management
  • be adept at using (or quickly learning to use) tools including the Google suite, Wild Apricot, QuickBooks and social media management systems
  • 3 plus years’ experience in program/project administration
  • 3 plus years’ experience in marketing and/or management
  • create additional funding streams to expand the organization according to the proposal agreed upon with the board
  • will expect to provide consulting services at a rate about 10 – 15 hours per week.

Proposals will be accepted by email only: Proposals should include a scope of services and prices. Send a resume, proposal, and references by 5pm Friday, May 20, 2016.


SOCA releases Point West Art Project Call for Artists!

The Saginaw Oakland Commercial Association (SOCA) is seeking a Michigan artist to create an original, bold, innovative public sculpture art installation to serve as the centerpiece of the Point West Art and Trail Project. This piece will be installed near the western Lansing city limits at Stanley Street, where Saginaw Street and Oakland Avenue meet. This gateway public art piece will welcome visitors to the City of Lansing and help instill a sense of place and pride in Lansing’s Westside. Click here to download a PDF of our formal request for artists proposals, a two-step process. The deadline for Michigan artists to submit a proposal for step one is April 22, 2016.


Volunteer on April 2nd to Kickstart the Point West Trail!

Join neighbors from the Westside and Old Oakland neighborhoods, SOCA business owners, and other volunteers to help us with a HUGE volunteer day on Saturday, April 2nd, from 9:00am to 1:00pm! Activities will include stripping sod, trench and post-hole digging, garden composting, and other light maintenance. Together we will kick off building a one-mile recreational trail in West Side and Dunnebacke Parks!

All volunteers will receive free Biggby Coffee and snacks. Sign up today!

If you have questions about volunteering or the event, please contact Joe Duris, Old Oakland Neighborhood Association, at 517-775-9531.

Celebrate with us on December 9th!

Can you believe it is that time of the year, again?

That’s right, get excited about the 2015 SOCA Holiday Party and Annual Meeting!

We’re gathering once again at our favorite neighborhood bar, Harry’s Place, which is now officially also the OLDEST restaurant still operating in the City! Join us to celebrate our progress to revitalize Saginaw Street and Oakland Avenue. They’re the east-west backbone of Greater Lansing, and we’re working hard to make them safer, more inviting, and more vibrant.

Come out on Wednesday evening, December 9rd, 2015 to eat, drink, be merry, and celebrate our community! Enjoy the company of friends and neighbors, and come to see us hand out the 3rd Annual SOCA Awards, including the Business of the Year and the Placemaker of the Year!

There’s also a special twist on this year’s party. We’re launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to build public art and a trail at Lansing’s western city limit, where Saginaw and Oakland meet. We’ll be showing off our plans for the Point West Art and Trail project!

Your $10 advance ticket includes light appetizers and great company. Harry’s will also offer drink specials, access to the full menu, and a cash bar. Tickets will be $12 at the door.

Buying a ticket to the event helps support our work to revitalize the corridors, promote a walkable, bike-friendly community, and promote great local businesses. Join us on December 9th!

This event is generously sponsored by Harry’s Place!

Business Survey Deadline Extended!

We are extending the opportunity to participate in SOCA’s 2015 Business Survey until Friday, October 23, 2015 at 5:00pm.

Every fall we survey businesses along the Saginaw and Oakland corridors. The feedback you give us on your business district helps us make the district better for you.

Completed surveys will be eligible to win one of two $25 gift certificates to Harry’s Place. A report on the survey findings will be released in early November. Access to the full report of findings is available to SOCA members.

Seeking feedback on proposed Dollar General

SOCA is working with business owners and neighborhood association partners to collect feedback on a proposed redevelopment project along the 900 block of West Saginaw Street. The project, being proposed by Midwest Property Development of Spring Lake, Michigan, would include demolishing three structures and the constructing a  Dollar General store and 27 parking spaces.

On 09/22/2015, Rory Neuner, Consultant to SOCA, attended a meeting hosted by the Ingham County Land Bank (ICLB) regarding this project. To help you understand the project, here are our notes:

Also in attendance were Jeff Burdick (ICLB), Carol Wood (Lansing City Council / Genesee Neighborhood), Chuck Hallman (Genesee Neighborhood), Jessica Yorko (Lansing City Council), Kevin Skiba (Saginaw Street property owner), Rawley Van Fossen (ICLB), and Peter Oleszczuk, Vice President of Midwest Property Development.

Dollar General Rendering 1Mr. Oleszczuk presented several documents (click here for the site plan and aerial image) and two potential renderings of the site (including the one pictured above). The proposal is to tear down three buildings along Saginaw to build a 7500 sq. ft. Dollar General and approximately 27 parking spaces. This will be for a “regular Dollar General on a smaller footprint”. Midwest Property Development is the developer and proposed owner.

The store would have basic packaged foods but no fresh food. It would also sell health items, automotive, basic household items, and some clothing and shoes. The developer was unsure whether Dollar General intends to sell beer, wine, or liquor.

Currently, privately held properties in the area in question are under contract with Midwest Property Development. Now the developer is waiting on the Land Bank Board to vote on whether or not to sell their property at 923 West Saginaw. The goal of the meeting was to answer questions in advance of the Land Bank Board meeting on Oct 5th (5pm at the Ingham County Human Services Building), as any sales for non-residential property must be approved by the Land Bank Board.
Do you have opinions on this proposed project? Please tell us what you think by emailing us at, or by visiting our Facebook page. SOCA will be sure to pass along this feedback to the Ingham County Land Bank at its October 5th meeting.

2015 Business Survey Now Open Online!

SOCA is excited to launch our 2015 Business Survey! Every fall we survey businesses along the Saginaw and Oakland corridors. The feedback you give us on your business district helps us make the district better for you.

This year’s survey is open until Friday, October 9th, 2015. Completed surveys will be eligible to win one of two $25 gift certificates to Harry’s Place. A report on the survey findings will be released in early November. Access to the full report of findings is available to SOCA members.