In Lansing, History Project Honors Memories of a Neighborhood Lost to Highway Construction | 6/28/2019 | Staff
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In 1965, Mary Jane McGuire, her husband Cyril and their three children received a letter from the Michigan State Highway Department. It informed them that their Lansing home, where the family had lived for the past decade, would be demolished to make way for construction of Interstate 496. The letter was followed by an offer of federal dollars to purchase their property, a number the McGuires felt was far below its actual value.

The couple’s initial refusal to accept the offer meant they were one of the final families of their African-American neighborhood to be displaced for construction of the interstate. Forced relocation led to an equally daunting challenge: The first offer the McGuires made for a new home was rejected because of their race. They ultimately purchased property in a neighborhood of mainly white residents — a handful of whom left upon news of a black family moving in — less than nine weeks before the state tore down the family house.

McGuire - Highway - Home

“It wasn’t what we expected,” McGuire says. “We had not expected that a highway would come through and our home would be destroyed, that what we designed for ourselves would be destroyed.”

McGuire is now 94 years old. Her story is one of many being told as part of Pave The Way, a citywide project to assess what was lost upon construction of Lansing’s crosstown expressway.

Houses - Businesses - St - Joseph-Main - Street

Between 1963 and 1970, over 840 houses and businesses along the St. Joseph-Main Street corridor near downtown Lansing were demolished for I-496. Starting this summer, a range of exhibits prompt the city to acknowledge, honor and discuss this history of displacement fueled by racism.

The Pave the Way project started formally in November of 2018, when Lansing received a $39,400 grant from the National Parks Service to tell the story of the impact of I-496 construction.

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