EL Fresco Set to Return May 12 in Same Location with New Amenities

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Gary Caldwell for ELi

People enjoying the Albert EL Fresco area in downtown East Lansing on a warm summer evening.

The Albert EL Fresco – an outdoor venue that features games, entertainment space, seating, and more – is set to return to East Lansing on May 12. The venue has been on hiatus since August 2021 when the portion of Albert Street between M.A.C. Avenue and Abbot Road was reopened to traffic.

The project was widely popular, according to feedback the City received from the community last summer and surveys completed in fall 2021 that showed 98 percent of respondents enjoyed the EL Fresco.

But as ELi reported last August, the hiatus occurred for myriad reasons, including safety during the late-night hours following a shooting on July 31 and concerns that the influx of students as the fall semester began at Michigan State University would make maintaining public safety in the area even more difficult.

With the return of the Albert EL Fresco on the horizon, ELi had a phone interview with East Lansing Community and Economic Development Administrator Adam Cummins to discuss the origins of EL Fresco, its impact on the community, and the return this May.   

Cummins told ELi that he spearheaded the EL Fresco project in 2021 based on experiences after the City introduced outdoor dining options in summer 2020. For the EL Fresco, Cummins collaborated with MSU Professor Louis Schiavone III, who named the EL Fresco, and his class Integrated Campaigns (ADV 486), which helped develop a marketing campaign for the inaugural year.

Though the project was popular and the venue was seen by many as a success, there were many lessons learned in the first year. Security concerns and strain on ELPD topped the list, and Council member George Brookover expressed concerns in October that local businesses adjacent to EL Fresco see greater amounts of foot traffic and parking, leaving behind businesses on Grand River and elsewhere.

When EL Fresco was first announced in spring 2021, several local businesses and residents expressed similar concerns about the City influencing the successes and setbacks of local businesses.

Comfort for those using the EL Fresco is also something Cummins would like to improve this year, telling ELi that there will be an increase in shade at the venue. Additionally, the City is contracting out for modular seating and tables that are nimble enough to be rearranged in the space but heavy enough to not be easily taken away. There will also be a City intern maintaining the space during the afternoons and coordination with ELPD about public safety in the area. 

Cummins told ELi that much of the initial popularity of the venue stemmed from the variety of programming as well as the venue being a new public space for those to enjoy after being cooped up during the first year of the pandemic.   

The venue is open throughout the day to passersby to enjoy the amenities, such as giant connect four and cornhole, which will return along with giant chess and other games.

Scheduled events, such as one-hour concerts featuring local musicians, will return as well in 2022. Morning yoga, which was featured once a week in 2021, will likely occur up to three days a week this summer. The City has also partnered with the East Lansing Public Library to feature the mobile library during the afternoons.

A full list of events can be found on the City’s webpage.

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