FLINT, MI — The city will use a new $1.9-million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the old General Motors’ Chevy in the Hole site and redevelop it into Chevy Commons, a massive park with nature trails and fishing spots. Mayor Dayne Walling announced the funding during a groundbreaking today, Sept. 26, for Oak Street Senior Apartments, using the new award as an example of the potential for more federal help here because of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities program that Flint was selected for in January.
Strong Cities is a federal program that targets financially distressed cities, providing them with technical advice and expertise from the federal government. “These new funds will expand the area we can cover with trees and walking paths. We are making the right connections” to secure assistance through the Strong Cities program, Walling said. The Chevy Commons grant has actually been awarded to the Genesee County Land Bank, said federal officials at today’s ceremony. It will allow for work on the second phase of plans for transforming the former General Motors property to a massive public park with walking paths, called Chevy Commons.
Phase two of the work involves the development of a Genesee Valley Trail extension through the site, including building connections to regional trail systems, enhancing Flint River views, improving access to the river for fishing and creating “flexible spaces for community use,” according to the development plan. “A potential bridge will link Chevy Commons with Carriage Town and provide an ideal place for fishing in the Flint River,” the plan says. “A stretch of native plants and shrubs along the river provides an attractive natural area and visual connection across the Flint River Trail and to the open recreation areas to the north.”
City and Land Bank officials debuted plans for redeveloping the 60-acre Chevy Commons in April, saying the transformation could result in a destination park that would allow people to walk and bike here from all Flint’s neighborhoods. A $1.6-million grant from EPA is funding the first phase of the work, which includes the addition of soil to cover concrete slabs on the site, installation of a parking area, walking paths and shrubs in about one-third of the space.
Emergency manager Darnell Earley’s office issued a news release today, saying the Flint Strong Cities effort will focus on neighborhood stabilization, public safety and economic development. The Strong Cities team supporting Flint includes representatives from the Department of Housing and Urban Development; Department of Transportation; EPA; Department of Commerce; Department of Energy; U.S. Attorney’s Office; FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; and the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Earley’s statement says the leader of the Flint Strong Cities program is a HUD employee who has relocated to Flint and is now embedded full-time in City Hall.