mliveFLINT, MI — The recent purchase of property near the Flint River is just the latest in an ongoing series of potential redevelopment opportunities along the city’s riverfront.

And among Kettering University’s master plan, the planned transformation at Chevy in the Hole and other plans, Flint Mayor Dayne Walling said major changes are expected in the area over the next decade or so. “The University Avenue and Flint River Corridor is going to see more dramatic change in the next couple years than anywhere else in the city,” Walling said. Rebecca Fedewa, executive director of the Flint River Watershed Coalition, said the work that’s being done now is the results of a decade of work by members of the Flint River Corridor Alliance and city officials.

“We see the river as a tremendous asset to our city,” she said. “Our backs have essentially been turned to the river for a while now.” The city’s vision for the riverfront, Walling said, includes mixed use facilities and properties for new businesses, housing and green spaces, as well as beautification and restoration. “The river is becoming a real draw because of what the corridor can offer as far as quality of life for residents and also an interesting environment for new small businesses,” he said. “There is also a large number of underutilized buildings and properties along the river left over from the former factories, parking lots, bars and businesses that depended on factory workers years ago.”

Already the intersection of Grand Traverse and Kearsley Streets, just south of the Flint River, has seen Tenacity Brewing recently open its doors. Three other nearby properties were recently purchased by River City Developments, a company owned by Ridgway White, president of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

White said development along the Flint River is crucial for the city’s future. In addition to the properties he purchased in the last year, White had also purchased one property 10 years ago. In 2006, he bought 501 W. Kearsley St., which sat empty at the time. Soon after, Rogers Foam was brought into the property, bringing 50 jobs. “I’ve had a long-term interest in the Flint River,” White said. “I’ve always felt it’s a long-term, positive benefit.”

Hamilton Dam

Walling said city officials are looking at options for federal, state and private funding for the Hamilton Dam, for which the first phase would cost an estimated $3 million. “This is an urgent priority in the adopted capital improvement plan and the city has pledged the first million to the project based on the emergency need,” he said. The first phase would “maintain the water impoundment upstream of the dam with a naturalized design that would then have a series of smaller cascades going downstream.”

Naturalizing the river

In order to fully naturalize the river to allow boats and fish to travel upstream and downstream, Walling said it would cost more than $50 million. “Naturalizing would require a major federal investment,” he said. “It’s not feasible in the current fiscal and partisan atmosphere in Washington.” However, in the future, Walling did say the city may look at naturalizing specific items rather than do the whole project at once. “We could look at naturalizing elements of the river at a lower cost in the future,” he said.

Riverbank Park

The first phase of a multi-year, three phase project is beginning this spring and summer at Riverbank Park. Flint Downtown Development Authority Director Gerard Burnash said the first phase is budgeted at $300,000, with money coming from the Michigan DNR Trust Fund grant. The first phase will include several changes, including softening some of the hard concrete areas and filling in the channel on the north side of the park. “The DEQ mandated it has to be at this level because of the state of the Hamilton Dam,” Burnash said.

The second phase would include infrastructure improvements, including electrical and lighting, but funding is still being figured out to develop the timeframe on that, Burnash said. Meanwhile, the third phase would just include wrapping up the project, he said. The timeline for completion isn’t set. “It’s kind of a dynamic work in progress,” he said.

Kettering University

In Kettering’s 10-year master plan, released on Feb. 12, the university shows a vision to connect to the Flint community and downtown. This means green spaces, including connections to Chevy Commons and Flint River trails. There are also plans to connect campus buildings, including an enclosed bridge over Chevrolet Avenue, that pay homage to the bridge that used to exist at the Chevrolet Complex.

Chevy in the Hole

Meanwhile, the longtime major eyesore and former General Motors industrial site will become Chevy Commons, a natural park along the Flint River which is expected to include wetlands, woodlands, grasslands and other green areas. The Genesee County Land Bank and city of Flint, which owns the site, came together to put a plan together for the site, which served as the backdrop for the Sit-Down Strike of 1936-37 and now holds a prominent place on the riverfront between downtown Flint and Kettering University.

A $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency paid for a draft plan, with the majority of the money going toward the upcoming construction. Before that, thousands of trees had been planted on the site to help naturally remove contaminants from the area.

Business developments

“The demographic changes and housing market dynamics are driving more people into the core of the city and there’s going to be an expansion of development around downtown into the adjacent area,” Walling said. “The Flint River corridor is the first place where the environment is right for that to happen.” With River City purchasing several properties along Grand Traverse and Kearsley streets and Kettering expanding its push for downtown, White said the city’s master plan will match perfectly to help downtown.

“It’s a natural expansion area that could occur over time,” he said.

mliveFLINT, MI – Spray-painted walls, a crumbling facade and broken windows exposed to the elements make up much of the hulking, dilapidated building on Grand Traverse Street.

Known as the former Burroughs mill, the vacant building just south of the Flint River is now the most recent of four adjacent properties purchased by a well-known developer with intentions of cleaning up blight and continuing economic development in the area. The building, 416 Grand Traverse St., was purchased in January by River City Developments, LLC. The company is registered to Ridgway White, who was recently named president of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

White said he’s still deciding the old mill’s future, but his overall goal is to improve the area where Kearsley and Grand Traverse streets meet near the river — a central location between downtown Flint and Kettering University, and just south of Hurley Medical Center. Also in the area are the new Tenacity Brewing and a homeless shelter, My Brother’s Keeper.

“I haven’t figured out what to do with the thing,” White said of the blighted mill. “We either have to tear it down or do something with it because I don’t like it in its current state.” White also was behind the multimillion-dollar redevelopment of the Riverfront Residence Hall downtown and the new Powers Catholic High School and Michigan School for the Deaf.

State records show River City was formed in 2006.

Saying the goal is “beautification and economic development,” White has made four land purchases in that Kearsley Street corridor between 2006 and January 2015: the old mill as well as 501 W. Kearsley St., 630 W. Kearsley St. and 712 W. Kearsley St. White said his interest in the area started when he bought the property at 501 W. Keasley St in 2006. While it currently houses Rogers Foam Corp., it was empty at the time.

“At that point in time, I saw an opportunity for a building that had fallen into disarray but didn’t need a ton of work so that I could create a space that could create a meaningful benefit for the city,” he said, adding that Rogers Foam Corp. brought 50 jobs. Of the four properties owned by River City, Rogers Foam Corp. and 1st Source Servall, 712 W. Kearsley St., are the only two locations that currently have a running business on it.

The fourth property is the vacant lot next door to 1st Source Servall, where work crews are currently removing the foundation of an old warehouse. “I purchased it and there is demolishing going on at the old foundation,” he said. White said he wants to clean up it to “celebrate the beauty of the river.”

Scott Lea, branch manager for the 1st Source Servall, an appliance industry parts dealer, said the business is anticipating remaining open.

“That’s the plan, to keep it here,” he said.

Lea said there have been discussions about renovating the store, which has spray paint on the side walls, much to Lea’s chagrin. Though the crews next door removing rubble have been loud, Lea said the changes to the area are exciting. Often, he said, the vacant lot is overgrown in the summer and he’s hoping the cleanup leads to future investments. It was a former Action Auto site, Lea said.

Lea said beautifying the corridor, located just south of the banks of the Flint River, could also mean more usage. He likened it to similar projects along riverbanks in Bay City and Saginaw.

“It’s time Flint does it,” Lea said.

Danette Jenkins, office manager for My Brother’s Keeper, the nearby homeless shelter, said they didn’t realize someone new had purchased parcels of land in the area until construction crews began cleaning up the vacant property between the shelter and 1st Source Servall.

“We saw some machinery coming in to do some development and that brought about some interest in what was going on,” she said. There haven’t been any discussions about River City purchasing the shelter property, Jenkins said. “No one has approached us with any discussions of that nature, not to my knowledge,” she said, adding that they’ve been easy to work with.

A garden outside of My Brother’s Keeper falls partially on land owned by River City, Jenkins said. After the two parties talked it over, River City allowed the garden to remain. “We look forward to working with any of the property owners,” Jenkins said. “We just want to make sure that the shelter guests are able to maintain the garden.”

The City of Flint faces serious challenges related to its high number of abandoned properties and vacant lots. These empty patches in the landscape pose safety risks, decrease the city’s visual quality, and often contribute to environmental contamination.

One of the most problematic vacant lots, a 130-acre property known in Flint as “Chevy in the Hole,” was a key center of manufacturing for General Motors for most of the past century. Adjacent to downtown and surrounded by residential neighborhoods, redevelopment of this riverfront property will play a key role in Flint’s recovery.

In this planning document, the Flint Futures group from the School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan presents two scenarios for redevelopment of Chevy in the Hole, each responding to a different series of plausible assumptions about residual contamination and Flint’s future growth. Both scenarios are based on the stated preferences of Flint’s residents and business owners.

Reimagining Chevy in the Hole Committee

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Flint River District will become a vibrant, mixed-use urban area containing stable, diverse and safe residential neighborhoods, successful research and development businesses, and new eighborhood-scale retail uses, all centered around an interconnected network of riverfront parks and natural open spaces. The vision for the District builds on three major framework elements:

  1. Reclaiming the Flint River to create an attractive and inviting open space feature at the center of the District that is integrated with the regional open space network
  2. Transforming Third Avenue into a new University Boulevard with a strong visual identity that gives prominence to adjacent institutions, and encourages new investment in surrounding neighborhoods.
  3. Implementing several strategic development initiatives that will build on these two framework elements.
Flint River District Strategy - Sasaki Plan (pdf)

About the Corridor Alliance The Flint River Corridor Alliance brings people together around our riverfront to promote a vibrant community. The Corridor Alliance’s priority areas focus on  strengthening neighborhoods, improving infrastructure, restoring and improving access to the river in order to attract people and commerce to the region.
Partnership guides the work of the Corridor Alliance’s project committees as they work to inform, influence and provide opportunities for action. The combined influence of the Corridor Alliance acts to strengthen our community and celebrate its unique resources.

Visitors to the Grand Traverse area will be happy to discover that the area’s two main rail-trails are connected, a 26 mile trip from Acme to Suttons Bay, combining an enjoyable urban experience with a leisurely ride through the woods.

The 11-mile long TART Trail is a paved urban transportation corridor that offers easy accessibility to the Grand Traverse Bay, downtown Traverse City, neighborhoods, parks, beaches, hotels, restaurants, shopping, marinas, bike shops, miniature golf, museums and the zoo.  The trail is a favorite of families, visitors, bicyclists, runners, walkers, in-line skaters and commuters.

Stretching over 15 miles through Leelanau County, the Leelanau Trail connects Traverse City and Suttons Bay. The trail creates the perfect setting for both recreation and environmental education through a route that bends through rolling hills, lush forests, picturesque orchards, peaceful meadows, and an aquatic medley of streams, lakes and ponds.

Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance

Acknowledgements

The Flint River Corridor Alliance would like to thank the Community Foundation of Greater Flint and the Ruth Mott Foundation for their generous support in making this report possible. We would also like to thank all of the neighborhood and community groups that participated in the survey and have been involved in the group. Also, thank you to all the organizations that have been working in and with the Alliance.

Final Report Flint River Corridor Alliance Mission & Priority Setting Process (pdf)

Learn more about the projects taking place along the Flint River in the updated Flint Riverfront Restoration Plan. The overview includes information on the Hamilton Dam, Chevy Commons, Riverbank Park and much more.

Flint Riverfront Restoration Plan

 

 

 

 

mliveFLINT, MI — Flint Mayor Dayne Walling has been named a finalist in a national challenge for his policy solution for Chevy in the Hole.

Two of the honorary chairs of the NewDEAL (Developing Exceptional American Leaders) Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Delaware Governor Jack Markell announced on Wednesday, Nov. 19, the finalists of the group’s New Ideas Challenge. Mayor Dayne Walling was chosen from a competitive field as a finalist for his policy solution, Chevy Commons, a green remediation plan for the Chevy in the Hole brownfield along the Flint River, according to a news release from the City of Flint.

Walling’s plan would convert the former industrial site into an open community space with grassland, wetland, woodland and other natural environmental features that will attract resident and visitors for recreational activities while simultaneously cleaning the soil over time, according to the release. “It is an honor for our work in Flint at the new Chevy Commons site to be recognized by a forward-looking national network,” Walling said in a statement. “I want to give credit to our team and partners, who are all working hard to transform Flint and this project is a great example of our creative and inclusive approach.”

Walling was chosen as one of 16 finalists out of a total of 60 applicants. A winner in each of four categories — growing the economy for the future, expanding opportunity for all, making government work better, and best public private partnership — will be announced on Dec. 3, in Washington, D.C., according to the release.

The city partnered with the Genesee County Land Bank who provided needed assistance on the Chevy Commons project.

“The Genesee County Land Bank has worked with Mayor Walling and his team on the Chevy Commons project for several years,” said Doug Weilland, Executive Director of the Genesee County Land Bank in a statement. “We are proud of the fact that after many years there is now a plan in place to return this Brownfield property to productive use as green space and trail-ways for the enjoyment of the community. Its strategic location between Kettering University and downtown Flint makes this project even more important.”

Walling is a member of the NewDEAL, which is a network of pro-growth progressive state and local elected officials who are working to expand opportunity in the changing economy, according to the release. The Chevy Commons project is funded by a $1.6 million grant front the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the first phase of renovations – which will involve dumping dirt over the concrete and installing a parking area, walking paths and shrubs in about a third of the space.

A second grant of $1.9 million was awarded to the Genesee County Land Bank in September for the Chevy Commons for the second phase of plans for transforming the former General Motors property to a massive public park with walking paths. 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.”

mliveFLINT, 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.