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Downtown's big plans

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Downtown's big plans

By Amanda Durish

Published: Monday, February 14, 2005

As a part of a lecture series, the M-Club held a discussion on Downtown Flint in mid-January. The subject was "Flint Uptown Reinvestment." And the tone was not dismal.

"This is a topic important to all of us," UM-Flint Chancellor Juan Mestas said, "I have my office on Second Street and I can see all of that construction and scaffolding. And that makes me happy."

"I can remember the crowded sidewalks of exciting downtown Flint 50 or more years ago. In past years, there have been many attempts to restore Flint...none of which have been exceptionally productive. It's been a matter of too little too late," Auldin Nelson of Flint commented, making reference to the early 1980's when Flint placed lit canopies with piped music over its sidewalks. The canopied were disassembled when the city couldn't find enough funding to maintain them.

Tim Herman is president and CEO of the Genesee Area Focus Council (GAFC), a hroup that he calls "a round table of revitalization." The Council makes the downtown restoration project their main concentration. "Urban projects take a long time to develop," Herman explained, "We see the destruction of AutoWorld as a good thing because the William S. White building is now sitting on the site." Herman used $800,000 to buy downtown property "which is cheap now because of plummeted values."

The GAFC has purchased six properties and currently has eight developers working on them. Herman makes the point that the developers are all local businesses. We're not going to Troy for our developers, we're staying right here," he said. "A few years ago there was even a suggestion to blank out the vacant buildings in Flint with false storefronts. But then there was the issue of people suffering serious injury by trying to walk into them," Nelson joked.

Herman cited several recently renovated and new sites, including The Flint Journal's new press, Mott and Kettering's technology buildings, the Genesys Cancer Center, an addition to the Genesee courthouse and the University Park subdivision. He also noted the refurbished sidewalks of Saginaw Street. "The city put together 2.1 million dollars for trees and landscaping, lighting and irrigation."

"We are now working on the Capitol Theatre," Herman affirmed, "It's been on the back burner for years because it's a 12-18 million dollar project. We really think it's a worthy project. Some of you probably got your first kiss in the Capitol Theatre."

Student housing for UM-Flint was a topic on the agenda, with ideas for accommodating the growing Flint capacity once the housing was put into action. "Students are not going to come to a cornfield without amenities," Bill Webb, also a member of the GAFC stated, "They are going to need grocery stores, caf

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I was kind of disappointed in the online version of the Journal's story since it was basically a recap of the news we've been hearing for a while. I went and bought the print and was glad to at least see the rendering of how the two blocks would/could look when finished. Looks very promising.

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