LANSING (WWJ) — The historic former Knapp’s department store is on track to reopen early next year as a business incubator that is the first of its kind in the state.

The project began as part of the Lansing Economic Development Corp.’s plan to revitalize downtown with a technology incubator to be located on the first floor of the iconic Knapp’s department store building. After much research, the project took on a new focus and will now be centered on fashion and design, a budding and promising industry in the mid-Michigan area and state-wide.

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Lansing officials say the project, called the Runway, has been gaining support from all over the country. Designers, entrepreneurs, creative individuals as well as the Michigan Economic Development Corp. have begun to join the planning committee to get the project up and running.

Working on behalf of the LEDC and City of Lansing, the Lansing Economic Area Partnership has hit the ground running with designing the space, developing programming and events, and creating partnerships with the Michigan Garment Industry Council, design schools from around the state, as well as the designers who call the Lansing region home.

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Additionally, through LEAP’s contract for services with the City of Lansing, LEAP has contracted with Jeff Henry, a Lansing resident, who knows a thing or two about the fashion industry to bring the whole project online. Jeff has owned and operated his own street-wear fashion line, Unlocal, for the past seven years. The brand has been sold across the U.S. and in dozens of countries around the world. After living in San Diego, Chicago and most recently Grand Rapids, Jeff has returned to Lansing to share his experiences with up and coming designers.

“This is the kind of project that will help retain and attract creative talent to the Lansing area and will inspire individuals to purse their dreams and ambitions here rather than needing to relocate to a large city,” said Henry. “The Runway will help to build a strong foundation for Michigan residents to take part in the ever growing fashion industry.”

Anyone interested in learning more about The Runway as it continues to develop can find more information at

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