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Barn Blog

April 15, 2015

Pole Barn Laboratory Stokes Controversy in Lansing, MI

It's no secret that pole barns are extremely versatile structures, with applications ranging from farm storage to retail storefronts, but would you believe a pole barn could also be used as a particle accelerator research facility?

If you think that sounds far-fetched, think again. Accelerator research company Niowave has been using a 14,000 square foot pole barn as a research lab for nearly three years in the Walnut neighborhood of Lansing, Michigan. Unfortunately, some local residents are insisting that the pole barn particle lab has been more trouble for them than it's worth.

Residents of the Walnut neighborhood and Niowave have been embroiled in an on-again-off-again legal tussel over the pole barn laboratory for almost as long as it's been up. The pole barn structure, which is nestled in a largely residential neighborhood, has ruffled feathers in the area due to its Spartan sheet metal exterior. Neighbors complained that the building didn't fit the aesthetic of the burgh, and demanded that a renovation was in order.

Neighbors threatened a lawsuit if the changes weren't made, citing a blow to property values and quality of life. Finally, a deal was struck.

Niowave agreed to make $200,000 worth of renovations to the pole barn's exterior, including adding a false brick facade, fake windows, painted roof, and doing parking lot renovations. Half the money would be paid for by the company, and half by a local economic partnership. In exchange, Niowave would receive a six-year, $550,000 property tax break.

Everyone seemed to be happy until earlier this month, when the debate was reignited. Neighbors claim that Niowave's efforts to improve the building's appearance are not sufficient, and asking that the city cancel deny the company their sizable tax break. Niowave and the city's economic partnership, however, point out that the company has spent more than twice what it initially agreed, with improvements to the building ongoing.

The fate of the agreement is not up in the air as the Lansing City Council deliberates. But if this story illustrates anything, it's two things: the often-fickle nature of local politics, and the versatility of a well-made pole barn structure. From unpretentious, airport hangar-sized particle lab to brick-lined piece of a classic Midwestern cityscape - and even both at once.

If you're in the market for your own pole barn, hopefully one less controversial than Niowave's, contact The Pole Barn Company today.

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