Case Study: Ottawa Street Power Plant, Michigan

Exterior view of the power plant from Ottawa Street shows the stepped roof design and color variation of the exterior walls.
At the time of its construction in 1938, the Ottawa Street Power Plant was a state-of-the-art facility praised for its modern and innovative technology as well as for its architectural design. The towering height of the structure (176 feet) allowed for short smoke stacks to be installed behind the building’s parapet walls and hidden from view. Exhaust from the stacks was pre-cleaned, a notable performance feature of the plant given its location in downtown Lansing, Michigan, a few blocks from the State Capitol. An excellent example of Art Deco design, the Ottawa Street Power Plant merged engineering and architectural design to provide a cleaner power generating process housed in a visually pleasing structure well suited for its location. Prominent elements of the design include the building’s broad base and the stepped roofs.
Ottawa Street Powerplant 2
Top: Interior view of the former turbine room looking out towards the new addition. Below: An evening view showing the internal illumination of the historic building behind the new addition.
Other distinctive elements of its design include the tall metal windows that reinforce the vertical expression of its mass and exterior building colors that symbolize coal combustion. Above a black granite base, the brick color is purple and gray below the water table and then gradually changes from red to yellow at the top of the building. In 2007, the City of Lansing sold the plant to be redeveloped as corporate headquarters for the Accident Fund Insurance Company after power generation at the plant ceased in 1992. After a $182 million dollar rehabilitation that included extensive repairs to the exterior masonry walls, replacement of the severely deteriorated windows, and a 105,000 s.f. addition, the former Ottawa Street Power Plant shines again and continues to be a prominent landmark in downtown Lansing. The rehabilitation of the former power plant was also awarded LEED Gold Certification for its environment-friendly design.

Last updated: March 7, 2023