Lansing to receive $50,000 grant from T-Mobile for renovation of downtown Plaza

Granting a wish for Lansing’s Main Street Plaza ... Lansing has been announced as a T-Mobile Hometown Grant Recipient for 2022 and was recently presented with a ceremonial check for $50,000 that will go towards renovating the Main Street Plaza. Pictured above at that check presentation are, left to right: Christopher Hird, T-Mobile rural indirect sales manager; Andy Kelleher, Main Street Lansing Executive Director; Maryann Baldwin, owner of Lansing Works + Innovation Lab; Sarah Updegraff, Kee High School/Middle School Principal; Amy Stracener, Kerndt Brothers Bank Marketing Manager and Main Street Lansing Volunteer of the Year for 2022; Melissa Hammell, Mayor of Lansing; Bruce Palmborg, Main Street Lansing Board President; and Melissa Wulf, T-Mobile rural market manager. Photo by Julie Berg-Raymond.

Sketch of the Plaza improvements ... The image above is an artist’s rendering of what the improvements to the Plaza in downtown Lansing will include that have been made possible by the awarding of a $50,000 T-Mobile Hometown Grant. The improvements include a canopy, new fencing, riser seating and cement work, landscaping, lighting and a large mural painted on the wall of the adjacent building. Submitted image.

by Julie Berg-Raymond

Lansing has been named one of 25 small towns awarded T-Mobile Hometown Grants to jumpstart vital community development projects. The $50,000 grant will go towards redeveloping the Plaza in the historic downtown district, to include a mural, canopy, landscaping, lighting, benches and new cement surfaces.

Announcement of the grant award was made during a community celebration Wednesday, June 15 at Lansing Office Works (the announcement - and the celebration - would have been held in the Plaza, but stormy weather intervened), with T-Mobile representatives in attendance for the check presentation.

Main Street Lansing became the owner of what is now called the Plaza in 2010. “There was a building on the site, but the City thought it unsafe and ordered the owner to remove it,” says Main Street Lansing President Bruce Palmborg. “Main Street Lansing was supported by Brennan Construction and its employees, who made improvements - which made it possible to have the Plaza. In 2011, the Allamakee County Community Foundation provided $3,000 for improvements. (Further) improvements were always on our list, but the funds were never available.”

The Plaza Project started out as great ideas often do - a conversation morphed into a pipe-dream and, at some point (a timely email came into play), solidified into a plan.

“(Last year) Fred Easker and I had been talking about how cool it would be to have a mural painted on the west wall of the Winke Law Office building,” Palmborg recalls. “Fred had been in contact with people administering the mural project in downtown Dubuque to find out the ways in which the project was managed, the methods used to discover potential muralists, as well as other things. I met with Nicole (Winke) to explore her interest and support for the idea; she expressed support. At the time, we were clueless about a source of funding.”

“Initially when we were developing our ideas for the plaza it seemed like pie-in-the-sky,” Easker - artist and owner of Easker Art Studio Gallery in Lansing - says. “We started getting bids for specific parts and it started to seem impossible.”

Then, in August, Main Street Lansing Executive Director Andy Kelleher received an email from Main Street America which included information about the T-Mobile Hometown Grant Program - and he forwarded it to Palmborg. “The T-Mobile piece mentioned that the grant funds could be used to ‘refresh a local park’ or, in our case, the Plaza,” Palmborg says. “Fred and I started to gather the necessary information, including a budget - which was a significant part of the application.”

“Becoming aware of the T-Mobile grant opportunity made us focus on what was possible with that $50,000,” Easker says. He continued to work through the mural process, and he and Palmborg collaborated on other elements of the application.

“Gathering quotes from a variety of contractors fell to me,” Palmborg says. “Quotes were needed from a variety of people - including an electrician, a concrete contractor, an arborist, and a metal fabricator for the fence. I made in-person calls to the metal fabricators, none of whom were in Lansing. And much to my surprise, I was told Lansing Housing Products could manufacture the fence. Wow! We have their doors and screens but never thought of them as fence builders. The electrician and concrete contractor are both from the area.”

“Funding of the project is great validation for all the planning, the waiting for contractors to just look at it and writing the grant,” Easker says. “It is greater validation for the community of Lansing and all the good things that are happening here.”

The grant money may only be spent on improvements to the Plaza which are outlined in the budget; Main Street Lansing may not charge any administrative costs to the budget. The project will begin in July and, except for the mural, should be complete in the fall 2022. Palmborg says. The mural will begin in 2023 and be completed in the fall.

“The City of Lansing is proud of Main Street Lansing for securing this amazing $50,000 grant to beautify the community plaza,” Lansing Mayor Melissa Hanmell said. “Thank you T-Mobile for this fantastic opportunity!”

“The concept is to have a comfortable, attractive location with a sense of place - where people feel inclined to gather with others or to be alone,” Palmborg says. “They could read, picnic, play games, simply watch people go by, listen to music, etc.”

“The plaza renovation will create a better gathering place in the heart of downtown Lansing,” Kelleher says. “Right now, the space is under-utilized, and the appearance is a bit drab. With an improved stage, a bandshell with shade, better seating areas, a new fence, and a mural, the space will create an incentive for people to linger in our community. It can be used for public concerts, student caroling in the winter, church services, public meetings, lunch breaks, and so much more.”

“Lansing doesn’t have a town square, like many small towns,” Easker says. “The hope of the plaza redevelopment project is to create a public gathering space and the mural will help define that space.”

After looking at the artists who created more than 50 murals in Dubuque and other artists that have come to his attention from other sources, Easker created a short list of artists whose work seems appropriate to Lansing and the Driftless Area. “Soon we expect to ask two or three of them to submit proposals for the mural,” he says. “From there we will select one to work with to determine the final design. We are looking at artists who have done work all over the world as well as in Iowa.”

The budget for the T-Mobile grant has allocated $9,600 for the mural.

According to information provided in a prepared statement released by T-Mobile, the T-Mobile Hometown Grants program is “a $25 million, five-year initiative to support the people and organizations who help small towns across America thrive and grow by providing funding to kick start important new community development projects. Since the program’s start, T-Mobile has given more than $4.4 million dollars to kick start 100 community development projects across 36 states, including the community of Lansing.

“Hometown Grants are provided every quarter to up to 25 towns. Every small town with a population of less than 50,000 people with a vision for how to make their community even stronger than it is today are eligible and encouraged to apply.

“To select Hometown Grant recipients, T-Mobile works with Main Street America and Smart Growth America, two organizations that have decades of experience helping to build stronger, more prosperous small towns and rural communities. Together, the organizations assess applications based on level of detail and completeness, potential community impact, project viability and other factors.

“For full details on how to submit a proposal for Hometown Grants, visit For more information about T-Mobile’s commitment to small towns, visit”