East Lansing businesses have been struggling since the pandemic hit last spring.
On Feb. 20, the city kicked off the Weekend Warrior Program, dedicated to using outdoor spaces created by the Place Project, an economic recovery plan to support East Lansing businesses. After a year of COVID-19 restrictions, this is a glimpse of normal life today for East Lansing residents.
Community and economic development coordinator Adam Cummins and his colleague, Heather Pope, brought this idea to life after trying to find a way to activate outdoor spaces to help stimulate the economy. After receiving more than $50,000 in donations and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation matching the fundraising goal, the city has more than $100,000 to change the city into a safer place.
“We are trying to solve multiple problems here: the mental health, the physical health problems, the economic health problems, all exacerbated by COVID,” said Cummins. “Our whole economic and recovery strategy is based on the protection of public health, and so that is our number one priority. So as long as we stick to that, we are going to be OK.”
More specifically, the city plans to create an underground market to bring a slow, steady stream of people downtown and create multiple seating options which work in winter as ways to safely dine in comfort.
The Weekend Warrior Program will take place every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. through March 27. According to City Council Member Jessy Gregg, the Rotary Club will oversee the program weekly to make sure outdoor dining areas are ready.
“The Rotarians are going to man the heaters and make sure they stay fueled. Fueling the heaters is their main thing, but you know, tidying up, making sure the outdoor areas stay nice for people,” said Gregg.
City workers were nervous to start advertising the project until they reached their fundraising goal in fear of dangling a solution and ripping it away due to lack of funding. As of Feb. 10, the funding goal has been reached and now officials plan to drive up the awareness to make sure this project can reach its potential.
“We are going to have our full budget, so we are going to be able to roll it out as planned, so I think you will start to see a lot more publicity now that we are able to do it,” said Gregg.
Mayor Aaron Stephens said “The best way to support our businesses is to get more people regularly involved in our downtown scene and in the business scene in East Lansing and we are just going to do everything we can to encourage that. You all make East Lansing what it is and it is an incredible city to live in, let’s keep it an incredible city.”
For more information on when and where to support local businesses, visit https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=1400