mliveFLINT, MI — If the Hamilton Dam on the Flint River fails, the water could flood downtown Flint, inundate Chevy in the Hole and damage wide parts of the city, officials worry. If there were an extreme rainfall and the dam were to fail, water could flood up into downtown and cover both sides of Saginaw Street, says David Lossing, co-chair of the Hamilton Dam Committee. The group recently reconvened after about a year and a half hiatus, Lossing said, to revisit the viability of getting a dam replacement back on the table.

It’s hard to say how badly Flint would flood if the dam failed, he said. “Only Mother Nature would know how much water she’s going to drop in behind the dam,” Lossing said. The dam for years has received the lowest ranking possible in state inspection reports. It is considered a “high hazard dam,” which means there’s a chance of fatalities and serious damage to local infrastructure.

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality considers the dam “unsatisfactory” and in need of immediate action. The dam hasn’t gotten the repairs it needs and plans to fix it have gone nowhere. Steve Montle, Flint’s former Green Cities coordinator, said he doesn’t know exactly what will happen if the city-owned dam fails. But he knows it wouldn’t be pretty. “The dam has been a high hazard for a long time,” Montle said. “It’s not going to improve on its own. It needs to be fixed.”

The dam was built in 1920 and is about 400 feet upstream of the Harrison Street bridge, adjacent to the University of Michigan-Flint campus. “Designed by Fargo Engineering Company of Jackson, Michigan, and built in 1920, the dam is a 218 feet long concrete gravity dam that features a total of six spillways,” according to a 2010 report, “Flint Riverfront Restoration Plan,” from civil engineering firm Wade Trim According to state inspectors, three of those spillways no longer work.

“That’s not good,” said UM-Flint student Jazelle Walker, 17. “Especially considering how they’re trying to rebuild buildings and make everything around campus look better. They need to get that fixed.” Walker said she walks by the dam regularly on her way to class and often wondered about its condition. Michael Abbasspaur studies music at UM-Flint. He sits at a bench downriver from the dam to read or play guitar. “It does look pretty old and decrepit,” the 19-year-old student said. “It definitely wouldn’t be any good for the city to have a flooded river.”

The dam was built to head off flooding of then-new manufacturing sites that were built in the Flint River floodplain. For example, the Chevy in the Hole site would routinely flood before the dam was built. A plan to replace the dam with a new “rock rapids” design gained some attention in 2010, but finding funding for the multimillion-dollar project was an obstacle, officials said at the time. The dam is so old that trying to repair it would only be a short-term fix, Lossing said.

Previous predictions for the rock rapids project estimated it would cost $4 million to $6 million. However, Lossing said, those numbers are a few years old now, so it’s hard to say how much the project would cost today. “The dam is literally falling into the river,” Lossing said. “There are chunks of concrete falling into the river. … You could probably do patchwork, but it’s not the same thing.” Officials were making progress a few years ago, moving toward a request for bids for a rock rapids project. Then the city went into emergency management, the overall economy took a nosedive and federal earmark money dried up. The dam is owned by the city. Flint Mayor Dayne Walling said recommendations for replacing the dam will be included in an upcoming capitol improvement plan.

mliveFLINT, MI — The news that General Motors has purchased a historic Flint building that served as the automaker’s birthplace has gotten attention across the country. Officials announced July 23 that the company has finalized the purchase of the historic Durant-Dort Carriage Co. Factory One, though they are not disclosing the purchase price. GM’s North America President Mark Reuss first announced the company’s intentions to buy the building on May 1 in Flint.

Future plans for the building are still in the works and the company hasn’t said what its intentions for the site are. But initial plans include repairing the roof and walls and making structural improvements throughout the 25,000-square-foot building. Work on the facility is expected to start in late 2013.

Here’s a look at recent headlines on the purchase.

Sacramento Bee: GM finalizes ‘Factory One’ purchase in Flint

Miami Herald:
GM finalizes ‘Factory One’ purchase in Flint

The Detroit News:
Historic factory in Flint bought by General Motors

Lansing State Journal:
GM finalizes ‘Factory One’ purchase in Flint

Businessweek: GM is buying ‘Factory One’ facility in Flint

The Wichita Eagle: GM finalizes ‘Factory One’ purchase in Flint The Associated Press

mliveFLINT, MI – General Motors backed up its promise on a continued investment into the city of Flint Wednesday, May 1, when GM North America President Mark Reuss signed an agreement to purchase “Factory One,” the original Durant-Dort Carriage Co. factory located on Water Street in Flint. Reuss called the 133-year-old, 25,000-square-foot historic building – which was the original factory for the carriages – the birthplace of GM.

“Flint is strong and it’s vital to the growth of GM. When Factory One is reborn, it’s going to be great and it’s going to be something we can all be proud of – GM and Flint,” Reuss said. In addition to the pending purchase of Factory One, GM will also become the curator of the Durant-Dort office building located across the street from the factory. The Flint Historical Foundation currently maintains the office building, but it costs about $20,000-$25,000 to heat and cool the facility and another $20,000-$25,000 to do other building repairs. Reuss said GM will now pay for the annual upkeep and repairs costs for the facility.

“We’re going to make that area a really special area. We don’t know exactly what we’re going to do yet, but our initial thought is that in the office building, we’d make that a nice little museum with the original board room, Durant’s desk and all those things in it,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of really beautiful, historic GMC and Buicks in the company that don’t get shown a lot of justice. One of the thoughts is that we’d convert Factory One for (historic vehicles to be shown) and we could launch vehicles like the trucks that are made here in Flint. It’s could be really, really beautiful.”

Reuss said that the deal to purchase the building actually took place in the original board room of the Carriage Co. office building. He said he saw the commercial real estate sign in front of the Factory One building while he was visiting the office building across the street. Almost immediately thereafter, Reuss and his team began researching past offers made on the building and what it would take for General Motors to regain possession of the property. GM North America President Mark Reuss announces purchase of Factory One in Flint, birthplace of GM GM North America President Mark Reuss announces purchase of Factory One in Flint, birthplace of GM.

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling said that the move by Reuss and GM to invest in this way in the city of Flint shows its rededication to the area. “For anyone who doubts General Motors’ commitment to Flint, look no further than the announcement that the original Carriage office building and the original Carriage factory building are going back into General Motors hands,” Walling said. “It’s going to be great to have this asset right on the edge of downtown, right on the edge of the Flint River in the hands of General Motors. That’ll make it a real special attraction.

Walling said that he doesn’t know what GM plans to make of the property, but he would like it to showcase the historical relevance of the city and of the roots of the auto industry in Flint. “It needs to be a place that honors the history of the men and women that led the company, who worked on the carriages and then the cars and, in turn, made General Motors into the largest corporation the world had ever seen in the 20th century,” said Walling. “That part of the city has always been meaningful to me because when you’re on that part of Water Street, you feel like you’re at the crossroads of the city’s past, present and now its future.”

Reuss, who began his career with General Motors at in 1983 at Flint’s Great Lakes Technology Center, said that he wants to continue to grow the company’s relationship with the city of Flint and this is a big step in the process. “I’m really excited. I started my career here in Flint and there have been a lot of hard times and tough things, and now we’ve just got to move on” he said. “We get a little success and we start doing things that we used to do here, and being a part of this community is a good thing.” The news of the pending purchase comes on the heels of GM’s announcement that it would invest $215 million into the Flint Engine Operations as part of $331.8 million in improvements at four of its manufacturing facilities. The move saved nearly 1,000 Flint jobs.

A month prior, however, the company announced its third round of layoffs in as many months, as Flint Engine operations laid off more than 100 workers by eliminating its third shift. That was coupled with the Grand Blanc Weld Tool plant’s Jan. 17 announcement of its closing, displacing 287 employees, and Flint East’s Feb. 5 announcement that 343 employees would be laid off. Steve Dawes, assistant director for the UAW Region 1-C, said that the investment bodes well for the image of GM in the region. Dawes said that Reuss’ passion for the project was apparent and infectious.

“He couldn’t say exactly what the plans were, but he was very excited and I could feel that excitement. GM coming forward with this commitment is going to be something to watch,” Dawes said. “Whenever you have a company like General Motors willing to invest outside of the actual factory or the building of the engine or the stamping plant, or what have you, it’s great news.” Dawes also touched on the possibility of Flint and GM returning to their respective glory days when both entities were used as standards for developing cities and businesses across the world.

“You look back to the 1950s when Flint had the highest percentage of home ownership and was the richest city in the entire country – it shows what we’re capable of in Flint and Genesee County,” Dawes said. “I think it would be great if (Factory One) was turned into another factory that produced 1,000 jobs, and it’d be great if it was something other than that like a museum. No matter what, it’s going to create work – some kind of jobs – and it’s going to create some kind of revenue for the city.” Reuss did not disclose the purchase price of the properties, but said that it was a fair price for the seller of the building, especially accounting for its historical value. He also said that it’s too early to project a timeline for the completion of the site’s

mliveFLINT, MI — More than 1,000 trees have been planted on a 60-acre portion of the former Chevy in the Hole site as part of a cleanup effort that will help transform it from a concrete wasteland to a greener space along the Flint River.

The project was highlighted this afternoon for Arbor Day, and representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and local leaders toured the site as project workers continued planting saplings.

Rows of young trees and irrigation trenches now line the portions not covered by concrete. (Document shows tree planting: ChevyintheHoletrees.pdf )

The variety of trees — including eastern cottonwood, sugar maple and red oak — are expected to help with the natural breakdown of contaminants at the former industrial site, which holds a prominent place on the Flint River between Kettering University and downtown Flint.

“The way the city and the mayor (Dayne Walling) have envisioned this is a green space to remove this scar on the community,” said project manager Steve Montle.

The work is funded by a $375,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and EPA funds and overseen by Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc.

The trees are expected to mitigate the pollutants present in the soil and groundwater through a process called “phytoremediation,” in which trees take the water from the ground, stabilize or reduce contaminants, and transpire the water as a neutral vapor.

Ownership of the property is in the process of being transferred to the city of Flint. The land is currently owned by the Flint Economic Development Corp., which obtained it for $1 with a quit claim deed from Delphi Corp. in 2008.

“This is a great project,” said City Councilman Sheldon Neeley, who sits on the EDC board. “This is nature cleaning up a man-made mess.”

Montle described the 60-acre portion of the site as being “uniformly contaminated at low levels.” He said the trees will help reduce the flow of polluted groundwater into the Flint River.

Montle was recently recognized by the White House for his work on the project.

He began working on the cleanup as an appointee under Walling’s administration but was hired by the national revitalization group, Center for Community Progress, after the city position was cut by Flint’s emergency manager in December.

Montle was honored Tuesday with the White House’s Champions of Change award for “leaders who are using innovative approaches to promote energy efficiency, revitalize outdoor spaces, encourage transportation options and improve quality of life in our cities and towns,” according to a news release from the Center for Community Progress.

He said at least two more phases, include a wetland, are planned for the project if it can secure additional funding.

“The hurdles have been reduced from barely being able to get over them to so small we can barely see them anymore,” he said.