City Seeks Funding for Pop-Ups Downtown, Asks People to Use Purchased Gift Cards

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Concept drawing by east arbor architecture for City of East Lansing

Concept drawing by east arbor architecture of a winter edition of the East Lansing Farmers Market in the M.A.C. parking garage (under the Marriott Hotel downtown).

The City of East Lansing is trying to raise $50,000, a fundraising goal that, if reached, will be matched through a grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation for downtown programming designed to address economic and social challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The crowdsourcing campaign and subsequent activities are part of East Lansing’s “Daytime. Nighttime. Anytime. Place Project” which, according to the fundraiser site, has been designed “to address some of these challenges in a way that reshapes how we live, work, and play in downtown for long-term economic, social, and environmental benefits.”

The site offers more detail about what the money will be spent on. Broadly, the money will be used for more seating, light installations, art, and “implementation of City programming.”

Six locations are identified and the various programs will be designed for social distancing “to provide an environment for people to socialize safely, engage in the local economy, and get outdoors,” according to the site.

The locations are:

  • M.A.C. Parking Garage, featuring an underground farmers’ and crafters’ market and other pop-ups on the bottom level.
  • The Marriott Plaza, which will have seating, bistro lighting, and heaters added.
  • Division Street Garage, offering seating, heaters, and art displays outside, underneath the “Habitrail” structure.
  • Ann Street Plaza, which will have additional seating and bistro lighting installed.
  • Bill Sharp Park (located on the corner of Albert Ave. and Abbot Rd.), which is also slated to get some picnic tables and bistro lighting.
  • The 500-block pedestrian alley of Albert Ave., showing off new recycled plastic tables and heaters added.

The plan for the M.A.C. garage is elaborated upon: “The MAC is being reimagined! The lowest level of the M.A.C. Parking Garage is being repurposed as the East Lansing Downtown Underground Market (ELDUM) – a community place to socialize safely, engage in the local economy and pilot City programming. The East Lansing Farmers Market will host pop-up markets this winter and spring in the M.A.C. at the East Lansing Downtown Underground Market.”

Currently, the ELDUM is currently scheduled to be open on the following days (all Sundays): Feb. 14, Feb. 28, March 14, March 28, April 11, April 25, and May 9.

There is more programming planned for the space beyond the market, with the East Lansing Public Library holding a pop-up event on Feb. 2.

As of publication, the project has raised about $18,500 of the $50,000 goal. Of that, $15,000 has been appropriated from the City’s own finances (including $5,000 contributed by the Downtown Management Board), meaning donations from the public are just shy of $3,500 so far.

The site spells out that the City will only get matching funds from the MEDC if it reaches the goal. The deadline is 11:45 p.m. on Feb. 8.

Downtown gift card purchasers are encouraged to start spending downtown.

The special downtown gift card program has generated about $31,000 in gift card purchases, City Manager George Lahanas has said, but of that, only about $5,000 has actually been spent at businesses downtown so far.

Lahanas urged people during City Council’s meeting on Jan. 5 that now is the time to spend with the gift cards — usable at various downtown businesses — because the money is sitting in an account and will be dispensed to local businesses only as purchases are made with the gift cards.

“Do your part, go downtown and spend that money on takeout food, shopping, whatever else,” Lahanas said.

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