The Niowave Project: a source of controversy

What the controversy is all about

The Niowave project in Lansing, Michigan has generated some unexpected controversy in recent years. Like so many other projects discussed in these pages, it started innocently enough with a sincere desire to convert a disused local school building into a corporate facility for a progressive local company. Instead, it has become a flashpoint of controversy between company interests and neighborhood residents in the area. As always with such conversion projects, the whole idea is to strike the proper balance between the company's needs and local sensibilities.

Niowave Corporation

Niowave, a very progressive corporation, serves as an interface between advanced physics theory and practical business applications. It features superconducting accelerator technology to manipulate free electrons in a variety of applications. Everything from medical radioisotopes to the space program is impacted by this research and deployment. As a signal of ongoing corporate optimism and confidence in the future, the company's management is planning an expansion near the regional airportt that will cost some $200 million and generate more than 100 new jobs over the next five years. Clearly, Niowave is the type of employer that any regional planning entity would like to have around its community. Even its corporate slogan "accelerating your particles" seems to convey a cheerful competence and focus.

Pole barn extension: is it controversial?

Pole barn extension: is it controversial?
Pole barn extension: is it controversial? | Source

The current controversy

The current controversy about the Niowave facility concerns the recent addition to the back of the Walnut Street school fa├žade. Admittedly, it is a new shiny metallic pole barn that does seem to clash with the older structure, but it also reflects the forward looking mission of Niowave. Neighborhood residents have voiced their displeasure with the addition to local television stations in repeated feature news stories, although the controversy has died down in recent months. Some have proposed that the new addition would not be so objectionable if it could be cloaked in more architecturally pleasing colors, such as earth tones. One possibility might even include masonry and faux windows, which would certainly give a warmer, more neighborly feel to the whole addition. A tentative solution has been worked out since late 2013, but it has not been made final yet. The author takes no position other than strict neutrality on this issue, and will leave it to readers to judge for themselves whether the new structure is "controversial."

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