East Lansing: summertime in a ghost city

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Whenever Michigan State University (MSU) is in session, East Lansing is full of life. You can see people walking on the streets and the main avenue, students all over the campus and movement all around town, just like in any other city you might visit. But today that is not the scene.

Empty streets, stores and restaurants. That’s the picture in East Lansing in the middle of summer. For about three months, when the majority of MSU students return back to their hometowns to spend the summer, the city loses more tan half of its regular population and, just like it happens in movies, looks like a ghost city: empty.

According to the last statistics of the US Census bureau, in 2018-2019 the total population of East Lansing was of 48,579 people. However, according to information given by Tim Dempsey, Deputy City Manager for East Lansing, to East Lansing Info, over 60% of this number corresponds to non-permanent residents or people that live in East Lansing for reasons that are related to MSU activities.

What happens with a city when most of its population goes away for a period of time? Besides the feeling of emptiness and the few people walking down the streets, it is the commercial stores that carry the most weight, since the majority of their clients are MSU students.

According to Jayla Turner who works at MSU Sparty’s, during summertime they lose about two thirds of their regular customers. Despite making less orders, sometimes they end up having to throw food away.


Something in which Andrew Cooke, who is currently working at the Starbucks located in Grand River, agrees. He said that his shop is sustained thanks to the MSU students and that the only reason why this change doesn’t affect them that much is because they are part of a big chain.



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