BWL Ottawa Street Station

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Michigan Power Company - 1910

Michigan Power Company – 1910

The Michigan Power Company built a steam and electrical generating plant on this site in 1908 and it was purchased by the City of Lansing in 1919 when the company went into bankruptcy. The plant was demolished in 1937 and the present structure was erected. It housed over 80,000 KW of generating equipment and produced 200,000 pounds of steam heat per hour. It supplied the steam heating needs for most of downtown Lansing. This massive steel-framed brick building is about 300’ by 150’ and is approximately 250 feet high.


BWL Ottawa St Station - 1938

BWL Ottawa St Station – 1938

The engineering design of the plant was by Ralph C. Roe and Allen Burns of the firm of Burns and Roe. The architectural design was by Edwyn A. Bowd of Bowd and Munson. Construction began in 1937 and, due to material shortages caused by the outbreak of World War II, completed in two phases. The first phase, which consisted of the southern half of the building, was completed in 1939. The second phase was completed in 1946. In total, the project cost $4 million, all of it from ratepayers without the issuance of bonds or government funds.


The 176-foot tall Art Deco step-back structure sits on a polished black granite water table, with an intricate exterior design of multicolor brick. The design symbolizes the combustion of coal, and graduates from dark purple at the base through reds and orange in the middle, to light yellow at the top, alternating with bands of limestone, and with limestone parapets and trim. The Ottawa Street station was praised for its engineering and architecture in trade publications of the day, and immediately became the city’s preeminent Art Deco landmark. Bowd subsequently designed a number of other prominent Art Deco buildings in the Lansing area, including the J.W. Knapp Company Building.


The Ottawa Street station provided electricity and steam to the downtown Lansing area from 1939 through the late 1980s. The plant had a generating capacity of 81,500-kilowatts. By 1971, improvements at the Board of Water and Light’s Eckert Station permitted the Ottawa Street Station to operate as a backup station for electric generation. It continued to provide steam service into the 1980s. In 1984, the Board of Water and Light’s Eckert Station began providing steam service, initially as a backup to the Ottawa Street Station, but eventually as the primary steam service source. As equipment became obsolete, it was removed from the Ottawa Street Station, and ultimately it was decommissioned in 1992 for electric and steam. In 2001, a portion of the station was renovated to provide chilled water service for air conditioning. It continued to operate as a water chilling plant until September 2009, when the Board of Water and Light completed a new chilled water plant in downtown Lansing.


BWL Ottawa St Station - 2008

BWL Ottawa St Station – 2008

Following decommissioning, the City of Lansing explored various options for redevelopment of the Ottawa Street Station. In 2007, it was sold to be redeveloped as corporate headquarters for the Accident Fund Insurance Company of America. Massive renovations to convert the plant to an office building with a 7-acre campus were made over a two-year period by The Christman Company, and completed in the first quarter of 2011.