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Lansing — U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson toured the Knapp Centre in downtown Lansing Thursday to learn about the building's 2014 renovation and promote the Opportunity Zone in which the building is located. 

Congressman Mike Bishop participated in the tour, though both he and Carson denied the visit five weeks before the Nov. 6 election was connected to the Rochester Republican's re-election campaign against Democrat Elissa Slotkin of Holly. 

"He's a Michigander, we love to have him back," Bishop said about Carson, a Detroit native. "It has nothing to do with the election. This is all about Lansing and seeing a plan come to fruition here."

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor, a former Democratic state representative, was invited to the tour but couldn't attend due to scheduling conflicts, a Carson spokeswoman said. Schor was due to meet with Carson later in the day.

The Knapp Centre, a former department store renovated and reopened in 2014 with help from a HUD 108 loan and "New Market" tax credits, now hosts apartments, various businesses and the Lansing State Journal.

The area around the Knapp Center recently was designated as an Opportunity Zone tract, a program created through President Donald Trump's 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that gives tax incentives to developers who invest in low-income communities.

"Being able to reclaim buildings like this in the opportunity zones is going to be absolutely spectacular throughout this country," Carson said.

The former 2016 presidential candidate has been visiting some of the 8,700 Opportunity Zones throughout the country to encourage developments like the Knapp Centre and gather information on challenges to affordable housing. He said he's made those visits with officials from both sides of the aisle. 

"Its not a Republican or Democrat thing," Carson said. "This is America that we're trying to fix."

Bishop is running to retain his seat in Michigan's 8th district, which includes northern Oakland County, Livingston County and part of Ingham County.

Opponent Slotkin on Thursday was one of more than 100 House Democratic candidate who sent an open letter to congressional lawmakers saying that if Democrats win control of the U.S. House, they plan to make campaign finance legislation a priority over other issues such as health care. Campaign finance reform is the only way, they argue, to eventually achieve meaningful health care change. 

The letter was coordinated by End Citizens United, a liberal political action committee. 

The 8th district, which voted for President Donald Trump with 51 percent of the 2016 vote, is considered to be a bellwether for which party clinches the majority in the November election. 

eleblanc@detroitnews.com

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