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Vibrant Downtown Prepared for Flint Local Initiative Support Corporation

by Sage Consulting

Evis Bushi - John Drain - Lisa Drogin - Nicole Mangis - Parick McDonnell - Katharine Pan
Acknowledgements

Susan Peters, Flint Local Initiatives Support Corporation Dave Johnson


Heidi Phaneuf, Genesee County Land Bank
Instructors Jenae Moore, Kettering University
Larissa Larsen Katie Teeple
Maria Arquero Michaei Freeman, Center for Community Progress
Megan Masson-Minock Mitch Socia
Nicholas Rajkovich Rhoda Matthews, City of Flint Mayor’s Office
Paul Coseo Scott Whipple, Uptown Developments LLC
Julie Steiff Tami O’Neill Harchick, Garibella Salon
Tim Monahan, Carriage Town Historic Neighborhood
Advisors
Christina Kelly, Genesee County Land Bank Thanks for hosting us
Erin Caudell, Ruth Mott Foundation Brown Sugar Cafe
Franklin Pleasant The Lunch Studio
Joel Rash

The Flint Community


Alycia Cobb
Angela Fortino
Barb Spaulding-Westcott, Flint Downtown Small Business Association
Cade Surface, Americorps member
Chris Everson, Flint Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
David White, Flint Downtown Development Authority

2 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


Table of Contents
Acknowledgements 2
Executive Summary 5
Introduction 10
Inventory of Propoerties 13
Goals
Identity 19
Improve look and feel of physical elements 20
Promote awareness of historic assets 24
Improve Riverbank Park 27
Develop university partnerships 32
Develop a plan for environmental stewardship 34
Strengthen downtown stewardship 38
Activity 43
Organize event promotion and programming 44
Develop diversity of uses 45
Encourage 24-hour activity 49
Connectivity 53
Adopt wayfinding standards 54
Strengthen connections to other neighborhoods 57
Create a comprehensive parking plan 60
Diversity 63
Back to the Bricks facing North Saginaw
Incorporate social justice into all redevelopment opportunities 64
Engage the greater Flint community 65
Conclusion 67
Appendices 68
References 103
Images References 105

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 3


Sa
gin
aw
Str
ee
UM-Flint

The area studied includes


Court Street from the
South to 4th Street to the
North, and extends from
Beach Street to Harrison
Street.

Focus Area
0 500 1000

4 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


Executive Summary
Vibrant Downtown Goals
The Vibrant Downtown Flint Plan originated as University of Michigan urban planning program
part of a larger effort to revitalize Flint’s downtown to conduct a preliminary study of the focus
Establish a core identity to guide future
development and set downtown apart as a
corridor. After decades of deterioration, new area. Specifically, LISC requested an inventory
unique neighborhood
improvements in the corridor fueled a renewed of commercial space, an analysis of public
interest in the community to develop the demand for new developments downtown, and
Increase activity and the variety of leisure
downtown area. These improvements included ideas for programming and design strategies
options
the establishment of a grocery and a series of that will help connect downtown to the
restaurants and loft developments. In 2009, the surrounding neighborhoods.
Improve connectivity within the corridor
Flint Downtown Development Authority (DDA)
and to surrounding areas
sought to guide that momentum by applying The Vibrant Downtown Flint Plan is the final
for the Michigan State Housing Development report of SAGE’s findings and recommendations.
Authority’s Blueprints for Michigan Downtowns It covers a study area along Saginaw Street,
Expand diversity and availability of
options for Flint’s diverse community
program. Now known as the Downtowns of downtown Flint’s main corridor, from 5th Avenue
Promise program, it matches selected cities in the north to Court Street in the south. Using
with consultants and helps fund the creation knowledge gained from a field survey and
of strategic action plans intended to spark inventory of the area’s properties and input from
downtown economic development. The city was the downtown community, this report highlights
named one of seven awardees in 2010, and four main goals towards achieve the vision of a
began working with consultants in the spring. vibrant, active, and diverse downtown corridor.
In preparation for the program, Flint LISC
commissioned SAGE Consulting through the

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 5


IDENTITY
The first goal, establishing identity, is really generally seeking more engagement with the Develop a plan for environmental
about developing consistent and perceptible artistic community to showcase aspects of stewardship
cues to set downtown apart as a unique downtown culture. Now is also a good time for the downtown to
neighborhood. But it goes deeper than create a long-term plan for environmental
aesthetics or beautification—it’s a matter of Promote historic assets stewardship to guide future development. The
place-making, or definition. This goal involves A cooperative effort between the DDA, the ultimate goal would be to increase the number
six different objectives. Historic Society, and the Flint Convention and of open green public spaces in and near
Tourism Bureau could go a long way towards downtown, and to address issues like storm
Improve the look and feel of physical highlighting the historical continuity of the water management to ensure the long-term
elements
downtown area. This could involve educational quality of natural assets like the Flint River.
Despite the improvements to Saginaw’s
programming for youth, historic festivals, and an
streetscape over the years, there are still some
effort to emphasize the historical significance of Develop university partnerships
weaknesses and other opportunities that the
certain sites through the Historic Society’s gift Currently, the universities do take a supportive
city can develop. Namely are vacant store fronts
in 2013. role in the community, but we suggest that this be
that detract from the downtown experience.
developed further, with programming that gives
They act as a foil to the DDA’s efforts at street
Improvements to Riverbank Park individuals or even student boards the chance
maintenance and to the colorful storefronts of
We suggest improvements to Riverbank Park to play a part in downtown development, and
the new restaurants. We propose a cooperative
that include physical changes that will improve which opens the campuses to information about
effort between the DDA, building owners,
comfort and sense of safety for visitors, downtown businesses and upcoming events.
developers, and the artistic community to install
including the installation of lighting and the Ultimately, these partnerships, which will help
temporary exhibits of public art, history, or, at
addition of physical elements that will help shape downtown development, should seek a
the very least, well-made advertisements in the
facilitate spontaneous recreation. Examples reflection of student interests and schedules in
empty window displays. Other opportunities
include picnic tables, barbecues, waterfront the things that take place downtown, as well as
include refurbishing the alleyways with public
activities, and public restrooms. a sharing of resources and ideas.
art and potential outdoor seating, and in

6 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


ACTIVITY
Strengthen downtown stewardship The second goal acknowledges that there Develop diversity of businesses
The last main objective for this goal is to is a growing need to increase the variety of Developing support systems for existing and
strengthen downtown stewardship. In order to business and leisure options downtown, as well potential downtown businesses should help
ensure the long-term success of any downtown as create opportunities for spontaneity. expand the range of commercial options
development plan, Flint needs a well-defined available downtown. A business incubation and
organization to guide and manage downtown Organize event promotion and support center that could provide advising and
revitalization efforts. The Flint Downtown programming information to entrepreneurs would encourage
Development Authority, whose maintenance and When creating a place that effectively attracts those who are willing to take the risk of bringing a
programming activities are expanding, should people, a key element is the promotion of new business downtown. The DDA can support
assume this role. However, it needs to address events. This objective aims to make event new businesses in other ways: by potentially
some issues of public perception by becoming coordination a more accessible option for extending the downtown Renaissance Zone
more transparent. We recommend that the DDA anyone or any group that wants to fill the empty past 2015 to provide tax benefits to a new
take steps to increase community involvement at spaces between larger established celebrations generation of business owners, and by being
its meetings, and update their website to inform like the Back to the Bricks car cruise. We an even-handed manager and promoter. The
the people of its initiatives, achievements, and suggest centralizing resources related to DDA can work with the DNA to ensure that
active partnerships. Additionally, the DDA is in a event coordination in one place, overseen by new products and services are relevant to the
position to formalize cooperation with two other the DDA. By creating a well-documented and diverse community in and around downtown.
major stakeholder groups—the Downtown easily navigated process, the DDA may be able

Small Business Association (DSBA) and the to attract more groups desiring to establish Encourage 24-hour activity
Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA). regular programming downtown. The second Finally, building on the foundations of the
Ideally, these groups would work together to piece to this is for the DDA and the Convention previous objectives, creating a vibrant
create a long-term area plan for the district, to and Tourism Bureau to take a larger role in downtown means developing a lively
be included in the city’s updated master plan, in advertising events through such outlets as an environment that offers something for everyone,
order to guide future development. official events website or local publication. whenever they choose to seek it. Community
members expressed a desire for a downtown
Sustainable Action for Great Environments 7
CONNECTIVITY
that operates on a schedule compatible with The third goal seeks to strengthen downtown neighborhoods. One is to identify two major
students, professionals, and families, that offers by enhancing its connections to nearby pedestrian pathways between downtown
opportunities for spontaneous leisure any time neighborhoods, the universities, and the region and the neighborhoods of Grand Traverse
of day. To provide this, downtown should have as a whole. and the Cultural Center, and to focus street
public spaces for informal gatherings, more improvements like lighting, landscaping,
diverse programming, and cooperation among Adopt wayfinding standards and signage along those corridors to make
the DDA, DSBA, and the community to make The first of three objectives is the adoption walking safer and more pleasant. Another is to
longer hours more feasible. of a wayfinding system to guide people into develop bike paths and trails and to complete
and through downtown. Wayfinding refers to installation of bike racks in multiple locations
a system of signs and maps that help people downtown. Lastly, a university loop shuttle that
navigate an area. This means signs at three could serve the major campuses and downtown
different scales. First are signs for vehicles, residence halls would encourage student travel
which would direct drivers to and from highways downtown.
and major roads, and along a specified
path through downtown’s one-way streets. Create a comprehensive parking plan
Second are signs for pedestrians to indicate This last objective calls for a comprehensive
that walking is a safe and acceptable way to parking plan that would direct parking
explore downtown, and to make activities and into downtown’s parking structures, which
attractions easier to find. Third are signs for accommodate more cars on less land than the
cyclists, to encourage bike travel from nearby surface lots. This plan would make a count of
residential neighborhoods and suburban areas. downtown’s entire supply of parking, and would
act to support the closure and redevelopment
Strengthen connections to other
of the infamous flat lot.
neighborhoods
There are a number of ways that downtown
can strengthen its connection to other
8 Sustainable Action for Great Environments
DIVERSITY
The final goal seeks to ensure that downtown
development reflects the diversity of Flint’s
greater community.

Incorporate social justice into all


redevelopment opportunities
All of our recommendations encourage and
respect these fundamentals of social justice
and community engagement, but this goal
reinforces the importance of these concepts.
These are essential steps for any successful
city and should be incorporated into every
aspect of the decision making process.
Specifically accountability should exist at every
level of the community, among residents,
students, and the government alike. Finding
ways to bridge the rifts created by feelings of
distrust and resentment between the city and
the community, or even among segments of the
city government itself, will, in the long run, help
Flint mature into a solid and unified community.
This can happen through the acknowledgement
of deeply rooted tensions and controversial
issues, the discussion of these issues, and the Back to the Bricks in front of the Durant Hotel
use of dialogue as a tool to move forward.

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 9


Introduction C
o
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s
u
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A
ustainable

ction for
Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning
2000 Bonisteel Boulevard
l
t
i G reat
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
vibrant_downtown@ctools.umich.edu
n
g E nvironments

Flint, one of Michigan’s oldest regional centers, focused implementation of the resulting plan. For the purposes of this project, Flint LISC, the
experienced rapid growth in the mid-20th The consultancy phase began in April 2010. Flint DDA, and other downtown stakeholders
century due to the expansion of the automobile SAGE’s Vibrant Downtown Plan is a set of identified a 13-block corridor as the primary
industry. However, the retraction of the industry preliminary recommendations commissioned focus area. It centers around Saginaw Street,
in recent years, alongside auto-dependent by Flint LISC intended to support this process. the area’s main thoroughfare, running from 5th
development patterns that have crippled
traditional centers nationwide, has contributed
to the decline of Flint’s historic downtown. Hotel Durant The Riverfront
Residence Hall

Consequently, functions traditionally served


by the downtown area, such as retail, have
UM Flint

scattered throughout Genesee County, leaving

S. S
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the city center in great need of economic 1st
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In 2009, the Flint DDA, Flint LISC, and a coalition W. Foundation

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W. Rowe Capitol Theatre
of committed partners applied for the Michigan t.

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State Housing Authority (MSHDA) Blueprints for W.

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Michigan Downtowns program (now known as W.
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Downtowns of Promise or simply “Blueprints”). 4t hS


t.
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Flint was selected as one of seven cities that
will work with Beckett & Raeder, a MSHDA-
Downtown has rt S
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City Hall
contracted consultant firm, to create action a high density of Co
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strategies for the economic development of Flint’s landmarks

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their downtown areas. As part of the program,

.
Map of Landmarks

ran
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the city has committed the next 5 years towards
rav
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10 Sustainable Action for Great Environments
t.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Avenue north of the Flint River to Court Street The current effort to revitalize downtown is • An inefficient parking system
in the south. The corridor is narrow and extends part of a larger movement towards redefining • Underutilized space
only a block on either side of Saginaw. Major the city as a whole. Mayor Dayne Walling • Vacant store fronts that detract from the
landmarks within the focus area include the and his administration have been conducting overall appearance
Hotel Durante, the University of Michigan-Flint, Neighborhood Action Sessions—structured • A disconnect between universities and
the University Pavilion, Riverbank Park, the Flat public input sessions held in each of the city’s downtown
Lot, and government buildings. Other features wards—as part of the decision-making process. • Limited hours of operation
include the Vehicle City arches erected by the Additionally, Flint has begun the process of • Lack of diversity in types of retail
Flint Historical Society, historically designated updating its master plan in order to guide future • Lack of options for a variety of age groups
brick paving along Saginaw, and a number of development towards a comprehensive vision. • Streets not designed for multiple forms of
historic buildings. The area lied at the heart of These two developments together represent transit
Flint’s DDA district. great opportunities to determine a direction for • Unsolidified sense of identity
downtown, and to involve the community in the • Negative perception by the media, region,
A great deal of redevelopment has taken place process. and other outsiders
downtown in recent years—many community • Loss of funds
members attest that the area is much livelier • Lack of employment in the region
than it was even 5 years ago. Numerous new • Limited options for affordable housing and
restaurants have settled in Saginaw’s ground- other services
level retail spaces, and in many cases offices • Long stretches between big events and
and lofts sit above. neighborhood-wide celebrations
Fortunately, it can depend on many inherent
strengths and existing opportunities.
• Engaged and active community members

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 11


Research Methods
• Connections to a regional University (UM- SAGE’s process centered around two main communication was conducted through phone
Flint) research methods. The first was an inventory and e-mail interviews, but some—like our
• Sizeable student population of commercial space within the study area. This contact with students and residents—were in-
• The Mott Foundation involved a field investigation in which our team person. We also attended both the Downtown
• Historical continuity physically surveyed every commercial structure Neighborhood Action Session (See Appendix
• Proximity to Cultural Center between 4th Avenue and Court Street. We F) and the Student Neighborhood Action
• Proximity to growing neighborhoods of measured the length and width of the buildings Session held by the city, and collected survey
Grand Traverse & Carriage Town to determine their footprints, and counted the responses from the participants (See Appendix
• Walkable corridor number of stories in order to calculate total E). Surveys were also collected electronically
• Riverbank Park square footage. We also noted whether or not a from students at Kettering University.
• Existing supportive business community space was occupied, and if so, what use existed
• Committed nonprofit organizations, there. This data was placed into a spreadsheet Through our research and interactions with
development corporations, and other for further analysis, and many of our figures downtown community members, as well as a
agencies were derived from it (see Appendix A). review of previously commissioned plans, we
• Active developers were able to determine a vision to focus the
• City administration willing to involve the The second was an analysis of public input. We development of this plan. The vision is simply to
public in decision-making desired perspectives from as many aspects “foster a vibrant, active, and diverse downtown
• Renaissance Zone designation of the community as we could reach, and corridor,” and from it came the four goals that
• Opportunities for government funding thus spoke with business owners, university form the main body of this report.
• Ample parking students, residents, activists, non-profit
• Development momentum workers, developers, and members of Flint’s
Downtown Development Authority, Downtown
Small Business Association, and Downtown
Neighborhood Association. Much of our

12 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


Inventory of Properties
Overview
The analysis of the downtown property inventory gross square footage (GSF) is calculated by Residential Market Synopsis
conducted by SAGE has focused on privately- measuring building footprints in situ. Multiplying
Commercial Occupancy Synopsis
held market properties. Churches, parking the GSF by the number of full or partial stories
garages, infrastructure, and institutional uses and reducing the gross total by a standard “loss Ground Floor Retail Occupancy Synopsis
that are supplied not by private markets but factor” of 20% yields the rentable square footage
by bonding and taxes are noted in SAGE’s (RSF) area. SAGE verified this “windshield”
survey, but excluded in the statistical analysis survey assessment with available market data
described in this section. There are several and the opinions of professionals immersed in
large single-purpose complexes downtown, the Flint’s property market.
typical downtown structure is built two or three
stories, each with a roughly 2,500 rentable The aggregate numbers revealed in the survey
square foot floor plate (SAGE has assumed that are not completely satisfying, however, because
all privately occupied spaces are “rentable”). not all tenancies are of equal value to lessors,
The most common configuration is the office and there are many low-intensity uses currently
floor situated above a single ground floor retail spread across the office and ground floor retail
tenant. A thorough mix of uses is normal in categories that are, for the purposes of SAGE’s
downtown Flint. survey, fully counted in the occupancy data.
This would tend to make the market picture look
SAGE observed three kinds of market-driven even less sanguine than the research presented
occupancies in Flint’s downtown: residential, in this section, although this inflationary effect
commercial office, and ground floor retail. To is offset somewhat by SAGE omitting from the
understand the condition of each market, SAGE survey area the institutional use capacity of the
ascertained the supply of rentable square many properties in the government sector.
footage (RSF) of each rentable structure
in the survey area. First, an approximate (See Total Occupancy Map Color Insert)
Sustainable Action for Great Environments 13
Residential Market Synopsis
Among the various use categories found Several other sites, including the Wade-Trim There is very little affordable housing product
downtown, residential properties have the building, completed in 2007, the Berridge Place, elsewhere in downtown Flint, SAGE observes,
highest occupancy rates by a significant margin. and the recently completed Rowe building, have and it is unlikely that affordable housing can
SAGE anticipates that in excess of 81% of the housing components mixed with office and soon be supplied by the market. From the
total available residential space will be occupied retail uses. The Rowe Building development is developer’s point of view, it is a challenge to
by the end of the year. (See Residential Map exemplary in that it provides for two “affordable” make any project work at all, let alone affordable
color insert) Following the steady growth in the units (according to Department of Housing housing developments. In the wake of the
last decade, the housing market in downtown and Urban Development criteria) among its financial crisis, however, affordable housing
Flint exhibits the signs of a healthy market eight upper-story lofts; attaining at least 20% is nevertheless becoming a more attractive
from both the demand and supply sides. affordable housing in a project is just one of the program for prospective developers. With
Whereas downtown was virtually empty of full- Michigan State Housing Development Authority the weakness in the housing market and the
time residents in the 1990s, it is now home (MSHDA) programs that qualifies developers dearth of mortgage capital, this means that, in
to hundreds of people and will perhaps soon for access to more favorable financing. Even the near-term, rental housing is the only viable
have a population exceeding 1,000. Much of if the MSHDA programs are used to their fullest housing product that the market can supply.
this new housing stock has been provided by potential, however, the impact on the supply
historic renovations or new construction that of affordable housing will only be marginal. Downtown Flint offers some strategic
keeps with the historic character of downtown’s Federal programs such as HOPE IV and advantages to housing developers beyond its
many turn-of-the-20th-century buildings. The Community Development Block Grant funds intrinsic appeal on the demand side: namely,
largest of these recent projects are clustered can be attracted to diversify the incoming downtown Flint does not have a parking
near the University of Michigan campus in Flint. downtown population. These programs are the requirement, and the criteria for both obtaining
The demand for housing is particularly strong best hope for those interested in attracting a historic and brownfields credits are attainable
among students, who are downtown’s largest supply affordable housing to downtown that are in downtown. Yet even in possession of the
regular user group. commensurate with the population in greater maximum of Federal and State Historic and
Flint in need of it. brownfields credits, the rental incomes that
justify the investment to the developer—and
14 Sustainable Action for Great Environments
Commercial Occupancy Synopsis
especially the significant risks of developing The redevelopment of the Capitol Theater on assuredly used at something less than capacity
in Flint—can scarcely make market-rate East 2nd Street is planned, and it appears given the current shape of the banking industry.
housing tenable even in the most favorable likely to become a reality within the next several Downtown stakeholders should also consider
circumstances. Other common tools such as years. Currently the Capitol Theater’s upper the possibility of a scenario in which Citizens
New-Market Tax Credits are unlikely to apply to floors are outfitted for commercial office use, Bank’s assets are purchased—a transaction
most prospective projects, because it requires virtually all of which is vacant. The developer that would likely relocate its headquarters and
that a certain percentage of income obtained of the Capitol Theater would, we feel, be wise staff away from Flint. This would mean the
from the operation of the building be drawn from to replace office uses with residential, if a build- loss of the district’s largest private tenant and
sources other than residential, and the demand to-suit or pre-leasing arrangement cannot be one of its most prominent anchors, an ominous
for these other uses can scarcely be said to secured. (See Commerical Occupancy Map prospect for the future of the downtown office
exist at this moment. Additionally, Genesee color insert) market.
County is reluctant to explore tax increment
financing (TIFs) in the current market. Creative Many of the commercial office properties we A large share of the total vacant commercial
solutions will therefore have to be engaged to counted are the small, narrow rectangular office space is concentrated in the 352 building
bridge the gap toward making rental housing spaces in the upper stories of the many turn-of- and the terminally vacant Genesee Tower.
construction tenable, but where financing can the century row properties along Saginaw Street. The former appears destined to us to be in
be obtained, SAGE’s inventory suggests that This class of property is largely unoccupied. the line of historic redevelopments; the latter
an increased supply of affordable new housing Many office uses have migrated to the former structure has no such apparent promise, and is
products downtown will be readily absorbed. single family residences on the outskirts of a mismatch with any conceivable direction that
downtown. It concerns us that the dearth of an expanding market in downtown Flint could
quality properties among the roughly half-million take.
vacant square feet of commercial office space
distorts our occupancy rate estimate, but that is Although it is still the largest use group by the
balanced somewhat by the full credit given to volume of square feet devoted to it, the demand
the Citizens Bank structures, which are almost for new office space is, for practical purposes,
Sustainable Action for Great Environments 15
Ground Floor Retail Occupancy Synopsis
nonexistent. Given the bleak outlook in the The market for ground floor retail uses is, on that are move-in ready; two high-quality retail
national commercial office market at this writing, the surface, the weakest among the different spaces with large footprints that can be shaped
we believe that the era that defined downtown use groups. (See Retail Occupancy Map to a variety of different uses, and the Wade-Trim
primarily as an institutional and commercial color insert) Retail also has the smallest Building across the street also has a vacant
nexus has ended, and that property owners share of aggregate square feet of rentable retail space as of this writing. The continued
would be wise to market to alternative types of space downtown. Its importance lies beyond growth of a residential population downtown
uses to fill these available spaces. its economic impact, however. Fortunately, will create the demand for basic services to
the trends in retail are relatively positive. The occupy retail spaces throughout downtown
downtown of the ‘90s has been described by (e.g. a laundromat, a drugstore and pharmacy,
some Flint residents as desolate and vacant. and eventually a gym). The upcoming opening
Since then, a small but tight-knit collection of of the Witherbee’s grocery is a good example
downtown business owners has emerged, of convenience retail that meets the demands
encouraged by the tax-abatements offered by of the growth in housing around it, and a
the Renaissance Zone created a decade ago in feature that enhances the convenience and
Flint. This small boom of downtown businesses attractiveness of downtown living even further.
in the last several years has sparked the creation
of the first downtown business association that Note: Building Condition Map color insert also
is representative of actual business owners. included
The Rowe Building currently has two vacancies

16 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


Vision:
Foster a vibrant, diverse, and active downtown corridor

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 17


18 Sustainable Action for Great Environments
Identity
Overview Objectives
Downtown Flint’s character lies in its community its character in order to achieve focused and
Improve look and feel of physical
and in the physical fabric of the city. These purposeful growth. In the last few years, the
elements
are the things that give visitors a sense of the area has seen a resurgence in community
area’s history as well as its future potential. As efforts towards this end. This chapter Promote awareness of historic assets
the influence of the automotive industry has discusses physical improvements to improve
Improve Riverbank Park
declined in recent decades, Flint has struggled the perception of downtown, strengthening
to redefine that character. Though identity and defining the roles of guiding organizations Develop a plan for environmental
runs deeper than simple aesthetics, downtown like the Downtown Development Association, stewardship
Flint will need to address issues of design and laying the groundwork for environmental
Develop university partnerships
and placemaking—developing consistent and stewardship that can develop alongside the
perceptible cues to set downtown apart as a city. Strengthen downtown stewardship
unique neighborhood. Identity also provides
direction. Downtown Flint needs to define

Flint’s Sesquicentennial Parade


Sustainable Action for Great Environments 19
Improve look and feel of physical elements

The main Saginaw corridor has undergone a and lofts line the sidewalks with bright, clean including addressing the way these storefronts
number of physical improvements in recent storefronts. Unfortunately, while these elements engage passersby, as well as engaging the
years. Streetscaping is more or less complete: create a positive downtown experience for city’s artistic movement and developing the
the sidewalks are studded with planters, trees, visitors, unmaintained vacant storefronts detract potential of the corridors alleyways.
trash receptacles, benches, and light posts. from it. There are a number of opportunities for
Meanwhile, the strip’s restaurants, offices, the further physical improvement of downtown,

Saginaw St. between 2nd and 1st, newly opened Rowe building at the center
20 Sustainable Action for Great Environments
Use of Vacant Buildings
Though some buildings may not currently • Advertisements: Some buildings are owned In terms of funding, the best case would involve
be in use, their display windows present by developers who have already completed building owners, artists, and developer willing
an opportunity to showcase Flint’s cultural other projects downtown. At the very least, to cooperate on a volunteer basis. However,
heritage, artistic activity, and commercial the displays could draw attention to those, the first two options may qualify for grant money
development. Now, these vacant facades are or give more information about upcoming that could go towards a small fee for renting
more representative of the negative aspects projects. the display space and commissioning more
of Flint’s recent history and add nothing to creative exhibits.
a visitor’s experience on the street. Instead,
before after
the Flint DDA should negotiate with building
owners to install any of the following temporary
displays.
• Public Art: Flint is home to a thriving artistic
community. Inviting local artists to decorate
the empty windows would be a way of adding
interest to the street while also supporting
the artistic movement and highlighting one
of the city’s important cultural assets.
• Information about the City: From basic
event calendars to poster boards detailing
historical milestones, there are many
options for promoting the city itself.

Future infill concept of Saginaw Street

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 21


Reimagining the Alleyways
These recommendations are based on
observations of Buckham Alley behind
Saginaw’s 500 block. Currently, Buckham before after
serves various important functions in downtown.
It offers additional parking, a site for dumpsters,
and entry into The Torch—a popular bar and
grill—and some other businesses. Yet, with
broad swathes of uninterrupted brick walls and
very limited through traffic, an alley like this
has the potential to be much more. The walls
present an opportunity for a public art project
that could engage the community on a number
of different levels. Additionally, with so many
food service businesses occupying the length
of the alley, there is the clear opportunity to
create outdoor seating.

In general, finding methods of incorporating


the artistic movement into the downtown
environment seems particularly desirable
because it showcases and supports one of the
Concept for alleyway connectivity improvement for Buckham Alley
city’s active communities and can result in a
productive relationship both for the artists and
downtown.

22 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


Recommendations
• The DDA should coordinate with developers • Businesses adjacent to any of downtown’s
and property owners to install temporary alleys should consider alternative uses
displays in empty storefronts. for the space. One possibility would be
• For displays of public art, the DDA to introduce outdoor seating. This would
could approach the Flint Creative require negotiation with the City, likely
Alliance, a non-profit organization through the request of a temporary or
composed of artists and performers seasonal street closure. In order to make
whose programming seeks to alternative uses feasible, business owners
promote the arts, culture, education, would need to address garbage collection—
and community service in the city. by organizing a new location and scheduling
• For Flint-centric displays, the DDA pick-up times— the removal of parking, and
could approach any number of conformance to health codes. This would
entities, including the Flint Historical require cooperation among business and
Society, the Convention and Tourism property owners, possibly through a block
Bureau, and the Sloan Museum. association.
• For advertisements, the DDA could • The DDA should work with the Creative
approach the developers themselves. Alliance and other arts organizations
• The DDA should approach property owners to develop programming and public art
and the Creative Alliance to organize a projects.
public art project that would result in a mural,
sculpture, or other installation, possibly
sited in one of downtown’s alleys. Such a
project might involve a design contest or
community involvement in construction.

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 23


C
o
n
S ustainable
Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning
s
u A ction for 2000 Bonisteel Boulevard
l
t
G reat
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
vibrant_downtown@ctools.umich.edu

Promote awareness of historic assets


i
n
g E nvironments

Promoting Flint’s historical assets would Discussions with members of the Genesee maintenance of existing historical assets.
enhance Flint’s charm and identity within the County Historical Society and The Carriage This issue stems from the lack of coordination
region, while incentivizing potential business Town Historic Neighborhood Association between the local historic districts, which limits
investors. One of the major obstacles facing emphasize the need for the rehabilitation and both funding opportunities and the economic
the city is maintenance of historic buildings and
districts, a challenge that can be addressed Hotel Durant

through more proactive identification and Jackson Hardy House

registration of historic sites to gain access Berridge Hotel

Smith/Aldridge House
to tax credits and grant monies. There are

S. S
t.
yS
e. sle

ag
currently 30 areas that have been recognized 1st
Av ear t.

ina
W. E. K stS
E. 1

wS
Charles Nash House t.
dS
and designated as historic districts or buildings n

t.
E. 2

Ha
Road Cart Factory

rris
in Flint. However, the special nature of Flint’s St.

on
St. First National rd
ley Mott E. 3

Ste
St.
s Bank
ear

ve
Foundation
past relationship with the automobile industry W.
K

n
Wa

sS
t.
tS Capitol

ll

t.
1s

en
W.
allows it to designate still more of its buildings Theatre t.

be
t hS

rg
t. E. 4

St.
dS
2n
and sites as historical assets. W.
Masonic
St. Temple t.
3rd thS
W. E. 5
t.
hS
Dozens of W.
4t

contributing Genessee County


Methodist Church Court House
historic resources
.
in Flint are u rt S
t.
5 th
St
Co W.

Be
concentrated W.

ac
h St
Ch
in and around

.
ur
ch
downtown

St
S. G

.
ran
dT
rav
Map of Historical Assets

ers
eS
t.

24 Sustainable Action for Great Environments

Drawing Not to Scale


opportunities that often accompany proper
historical preservation. Additionally, Flint’s
abundance of historic districts and sites can
make maintaining collaborative dialogue
between districts difficult. The lack of continuity Potential Funding Options from Historical Preservation
among the existing historical districts is a major
obstacle in establishing Flint as a historical
destination. The City should create a body
dedicated to performing functions related to
historical preservation. This body would help
identify historic properties and encourage
their owners to pursue registration through the
State Housing and Preservation Office and the
National Park Service. It would inform owners
of historic properties of the benefits of historical
designation, such as access to funds to assist in
maintenance. The development and unification
of Flint’s historical assets can contribute to a
successful promotional campaign that can add
definition to Flint’s identity as well as generate
activity and support of Flint’s local economy.

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 25


Recommendations:
• The City could create an authority that • Alternatively the DDA could create a Historic • Installing commemorative plaques
represents all of the historic districts and Preservation subcommittee. Its objectives at sites of historic events. This may
sites in the greater Flint community. This would be: require the cooperation of Cultural
Historical Preservation Authority would be a • To work with the Flint Historic District Center institutions as well, such as the
formal council that includes representatives Commission to identify opportunities Sloan Museum. One potential model
from the City’s historic district associations. for designating new historic assets for this option would be Louisville
Membership could be extended to all • To protect historic properties and Kentucky, whose plaques tell brief
owners of historic property and would be maintain the downtown’s historic narratives of significant events,
open to all community members. The main character movements, figures, and other
objectives of this authority would be: • To promote Flint as a historical anecdotes associated with various
• To create a forum for open dialogue destination within the region. sites throughout the city.
between historic district members and • The DDA and the Genesee County • Organizing murals or community art
property owners Convention and Tourism Bureau should project that would represent historical
• To work with the Flint Historic District work together to promote awareness of milestones and art movements
Commission to identify opportunities downtown’s historic sites. This could include associated with the city. This would
for designating new historic assets creating printed materials, walking tours, be an excellent opportunity to involve
• To protect historic districts and educational opportunities, youth events, artistic groups like the Creative
maintain the city’s historic character family-oriented programming, and historical Alliance, K-12 students, university
• To work with the DDA to promote Flint festivals. students, and other members of the
as a historical destination within the • The DDA should coordinate with the community. These pieces could also
region. Genesee County Historical Society for the be located throughout as points in a
dedication of the Society’s 2013 gift. Two walking tour.
potential ideas for this gift are:

26 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


Improve Riverbank Park

Riverbank Park, located at the intersection The park is owned by the City and maintained Building on the Downtown Flint Placemaking
of Flint River with downtown, is an award- by the Downtown Development Authority. Project recommendations to connect Riverbank
winning park, winning the American Society of However, years of only the most basic upkeep Park with downtown, there are a number
Landscape Architects Honor Awards for Parks have left the park with a negative image. The of opportunities for further improvement
and Recreation Planning in 1982. Designed by park currently suffers from an appearance of of Riverbank Park including recreational
Landscape Architect Lawrence Halprin in 1976, desolation and a lack of safety when no visitors opportunities, event programming, and physical
the park was planned as a series of 5 connected are present. design improvements.
block parks and includes an amphitheatre,
market stalls, a grand fountain, and many other The Downtown Flint Placemaking Project—a The New Directions for Public Spaces in Flint
water features designed to incorporate the collaborative effort between the DDA, plan, prepared by the Project for Public Spaces,
flows of both the Flint River and storm water University of Michigan-Flint Outreach, and the suggested that a revitalization of Riverbank Park
run-off. Project for Public Spaces that was funded by is necessary for the revitalization of downtown.
the Ruth Mott Foundation—created a plan for Through developing programming, design
the redevelopment of Riverbank Park. The plan improvements, and recreational opportunities,
cast Riverbank Park as an existing asset to Riverbank Park has the potential to transform
downtown, highlighting the amphitheatre as an into a vibrant, active, and diverse public space
important event space and the available public for the community.
space as a key component of downtown’s
landscape.

Riverbank Park from the Harrison Street Bridge

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 27


Development of a Riverbank Park Authority Event Programming and Recreational
Riverbank Park is currently owned by the Responsibilities of the Riverbank Park Authority Opportunities
City of Flint and maintained by the DDA. should include: Downtown Neighborhood Action Sessions
Unfortunately time and financial constraints • Performing maintenance functions highlighted the development of programming
have led to decline in the intensity of upkeep, • Locating funding streams for maintenance for Riverbank Park as one of 15 top action item
with Riverbank Park currently struggling with a and upkeep, as well as developing priorities for downtown. Public input called
negative image in terms of safety and lack of a additional fundraising opportunities specifically for ethnic and food festivals to be
park-like appearance. • Organizing programming and events held at Riverbank Park. Additional programming
• Organizing public input events to form the and recreation-based action items included
Feedback from Flint community members basis for redevelopment of the park. more programming opportunities in general,
suggests that the development of a Riverbank • Organizing volunteer clean-ups of the park kayaking and fishing at the river, student
Park Authority as a separate entity from the to help with upkeep and connect community -specific programming, and concerts and other
DDA and City will provide an opportunity to members with the park. events at Riverbank Park.
develop Riverbank Park into a well-maintained
and well- landscaped park that provides If the development of a new entity is not an Riverbank Park already hosts a number of
programming and recreational opportunities in option, the role of the Downtown Development successful events. The annual summer Flint
a safe and enjoyable environment. Authority should be expanded to include these Jazz Festival, presented by the Greater Flint
responsibilities. Arts Council, draws over 10,000 visitors
downtown every year. The summer of 2010 will
be the festival’s 29th year providing a venue
for local talent, encouraging the Flint music
scene, and drawing people to downtown Flint.
Currently in it’s 11th year, the annual Keep On
Keepin’ on Afrikan American Festival draws
roughly 1,000 people to Riverbank Park.
Aerial perspective of the Flint River

28 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


Design and Landscaping
Expanding on existing programming Downtown Neighborhood Action Sessions also highlighted additional lighting and signage as
opportunities by providing additional family- highlighted action items related to the design an important component of increasing comfort
friendly and student-specific affordable and and landscaping of Riverbank Park, including and safety.
free programming, such as outdoor concerts overall improvement, removing berms for
and movies, as well as ethnic and food visibility, displaying public art, increasing Making Riverbank Park as a more “park-like”
festivals, would be one of many responsibilities visibility and safety, softening the image (for space with additional green landscaping, bbq’s,
held by the Riverbank Park Authority. Others example, introducing ivy onto the concrete), and picnic tables for leisure will enhance the
involve locating funding streams, developing and improving lighting. overall image of the park. Installation of covered
programming that meets community needs, pavilions for multi-use events and activities will
and establishing ongoing seasonal recreational Extending the physical space of Riverbank allow for additional accessibility and seasonal
opportunities. Additional cooperation from the Park towards downtown will increase public usages. Increased seating options and public
DDA and the City may be required. green space for additional programming and restrooms will provide for additional comfort
recreational opportunities, as well as reduce for park users. Installation of bike racks within
Additionally, the developed Riverbank Park the amount of impervious surface. Reducing the park will encourage bicycle connectivity
Authority, in cooperation with the DDA and city, impervious surfaces decreases storm water to downtown and the use of the Flint River
would provide recreational opportunities such run-off and the amount of pollutants entering the Trail. Additionally, incorporating public art into
as fishing, kayaking, and/or canoeing along the river and other water streams. The Riverbank the design of the park in coordination with the
riverfront as highlighted by public input. Park Authority should work with the City and Creative Arts Alliance and greater Flint Arts
the Genesee County Land Bank to identify community, will increase overall public image
possible space within downtown to extend of the park. The Riverbank Park Authority
Riverbank Park, as well as potential funding should take an active role in finding funding
opportunities for purchasing and maintaining opportunities to enhance the landscape of
the additional space.The community has also Riverbank Park.

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 29


before after

Riverbank Park with examples of proposed improvements

30 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


Recommendations
• The City should establish a Riverbank Park • The Riverbank Park Authority should work • Install bike racks within the park to
Authority to develop Riverbank Park into a with the City and the Genesee County encourage bicycle connectivity to
well-maintained and landscaped park that Land Bank to extend the physical space downtown and the use of the Flint
provides programming and recreational of Riverbank Park towards downtown to River Trail.
opportunities in a safe and enjoyable increase public green space for additional • Incorporate public art into the design
environment. The Riverbank Park Authority programming and recreational opportunities of the park in coordination with the
should take an active role in finding funding and reduce the amount of impervious Creative Arts Alliance and greater
opportunities to enhance the landscape surface. Flint Arts community.
and programming of Riverbank Park. • The Riverbank Park Authority should make
• The Riverbank Park Authority should the following physical improvements:
expand on existing Riverbank Park • Add additional lighting and signage
programming opportunities by providing for increased comfort and safety.
additional family-friendly and student- • Make Riverbank Park as a more
specific affordable and free programming, “park-like” space with additional green
such as outdoor concerts and movies; as landscaping, bbq’s, and picnic tables
well as ethnic and food festivals for the for leisure to enhance the overall
greater Flint Community image of the park.
• The Riverbank Park Authority should rovide • Install covered pavilions for multi-
recreational opportunities such as fishing, use events and activities to allow for
kayaking, and/or canoeing along the additional accessibility and seasonal
riverfront. usages.
• Increase seating options and public
restrooms

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 31


Develop university partnerships

Downtown Flint and the Universities located • The Early Childhood Development Center, At Kettering University, the Student Civic
nearby all have a lot to gain from strengthening which provides childcare to community Engagement Center (SCEC) provides students
their relationships. The downtown area members and training to early childhood with opportunities to serve the Flint community,
depends on the schools to bring in student caretakers and educators and also coordinates community service
traffic, and the student population forms a • LAUNCH, which hosts workshops and initiatives with other Flint universities.
large potential user base—whether of housing, community programs to promote creativity
dining, or retail. The schools are also a source and entrepreneurship Mott Community College has recently
of excellent informational, practical, and human • Events and building services incorporated grant money into the new Flint
resources. Meanwhile, downtown serves as an • The urban health and wellness center North Central Community Outreach Partnership
attraction for prospective students and offers Center (COPC). The Center’s programming is
opportunities for civic engagement and a place designed to engage community members and
for students to apply their knowledge and organizations to address issues of housing, job
passions. training, crime prevention, and neighborhood
beautification.
The local universities have pledged their

Saginaw St
assistance and support in many ways. ML
Robert Longway Blvd
K

Community outreach is a key element to each


Av
e

university’s mission and serves as a way to link 475 = .5 mi


university resources needs in the surrounding Av
e UM-Flint
Mott Community College
SS

rsity
ive
ag

Un
area.
ina
wS
t

Kettering University
21
The University of Michigan-Flint (UM-Flint) is
host to many programs that seek to extend 69 Proximity of Flint’s Higher
their resources to the greater Flint community. Education institutions
from downtown and the
Some programs at UM-Flint include: connections between them
Proximity Map
32 Sustainable Action for Great Environments
Recommendations:
The current supportive role taken by the • The universities should coordinate to • The universities should work with
universities is valuable but could be developed implement a looping shuttle that runs downtown’s numerous government and
further with a stronger partnership with the city. between main university buildings or non-profit agencies, and possibly offices
Ultimately, these partnerships, which will help parking lots and downtown residence halls. and firms to develop more internship or
shape downtown development, should seek a • The DDA should work with the DSBA employment opportunities for students.
reflection of student interests and schedules in and the universities to forge a stronger • The universities should formalize
the things that take place downtown, as well as connection between local businesses and communication with the DDA and
a sharing of resources and ideas. student lifestyles. First, they should work on downtown development partners to
bringing more students downtown, possibly advocate for student interests throughout
Public input shows that students would like through promoting “student days” that the development process.
more transportation options into downtown. involve either student discounts or sidewalk
Currently, only UM-Flint is within a comfortable fairs. Potential programming for sidewalk
walking distance of downtown, and even then, fairs could include samples and space for
some of its buildings across the river may seem student organizations and Flint agencies
too far at night or in winter. The universities looking for student volunteers to set up
could both strengthen their relationships with display tables. “Finding ways to utilize the surrounding
one another and help facilitate the movement • The DDA and other downtown groups like educational establishmentsand partnering with
of students into downtown by coordinating a the DNA or DSBA should create roles for big companies will help build the foundation for
downtown and create networking opportunities.”
loop shuttle to serve main campus buildings individual students or student committees (See Grand Rapids case study, Appendix B)
or parking areas, and downtown residence to play in the development of downtown.
halls. Such a shuttle would have to coordinate
scheduling with classes and with downtown’s
hours of operation, and may be a useful tool in
developing a downtown that stay later longer.

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 33


Develop a plan for environmental stewardship

Flint’s current mayoral administration has economic benefits to all people. Through
initiated the Green Flint Initiative to develop providing an ecological framework for
long-term urban sustainability in the city, while environmental, social, and economic health,
enhancing the lives of Flint’s residents in their future smart growth, future land development,
environment. Current elements of the initiative and land conservation decisions are better able
include developing a curbside recycling to accommodate changing population growth
program, utilizing wastewater for energy, urban and protect and preserve community assets
farming, brownfields reuse, and the creation and resources.
of green space and access to nature for the
community. Utilizing the momentum of the current Green
Flint Initiative, the City and the DDA should direct
Protecting the natural systems of Flint must an effort to create a long-term environmental
be a priority as the city moves forward with stewardship plan that will guide future
future downtown development. Conservation, development and protect natural features.
restoration, and maintenance of functioning
natural systems protect ecosystem functions
“Urban sustainability is not just about a hike in the and provide diverse recreation, social, and
woods,” Mayor Walling Dayne Walling said during
a recent interview on April 23, 2010 as part of the
Greening of the Great Lakes conversation on News/
Talk 760 WJR. “It really is about how you make life
better for people. You have to come up with ways
to create green space and access to nature but also
develop projects in a way that are appropriate for the

34 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


Green Space and Parks
Community input highlights the importance
of expanding of Riverbank Park and creating
more green space within the downtown vicinity.
Establishing Riverbank Park as a green space
FLINT GREEN SPACE
hub in the greater riverfront open space system Dayton Park

as outlined in the “Flint River District Strategy Kearsley


Avondale
Plan” will support conservation and associated Cemetary
Park

Ballenger
recreational opportunities, while connecting Park
existing resources along the river. Additionally,
extending the physical space of Riverbank Park
towards downtown will increase green space Riverbank Wilson
Park
and reduce the amount of impervious surface, Mott Park Park Burroughs
Park
reducing the amount of storm water run-off and
pollutants entering the water cycle. DOWNTOWN
FLINT
Aldrich
Utilizing native landscaping in parks and along Park

streets and pathways is suggested as a way


Glenwood Cemetary
to both support biodiversity of the ecosystem,
as well as reduce overall maintenance costs. Greenspace Diagram
Native landscaping attracts a variety of birds,
Riverbanl Park as part of a potential network of
butterflies and other animals, supporting green space and active recreation
biodiversity. Once established, native plants
do not need fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides or
watering, thus benefiting the environment and
reducing maintenance costs.
Sustainable Action for Great Environments 35
Green Streets & Storm Water Management
According to the Environmental Protection
Agency, storm water run-off is created when
water flows over terrain or impervious surfaces
(paved streets, parking lots, building rooftops)
and does not permeate into the ground. As
the run-off flows over the land, it accumulates
debris, chemicals, sediment and other pollutants
that can negatively impact water quality.

Existing Partial Street Plan Green Streets Concept Plan

Small modification applied to existing street


infrastructure can improve connectivity, better
manage parking, and reduce stress on stormwater
systems

36 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


Recommendations:
Portland, Oregon is currently a leader in • Reducing demand on the city’s sewer • The City should cooperate with the DDA
developing and using strategies to effectively collection system and the cost of to develop a long-term environmental
manage storm water run-off. In 2007, Portland constructing expensive pipe systems stewardship plan should be created to guide
began incorporating green street facilities • Addressing requirements of federal and future development and protect current
into urban development. Green streets, as a state regulations to protect public health natural features.
sustainable storm water management strategy, and restore and protect watershed health • The City should establish Riverbank Park as
use a natural systems approach, reduce flows, • Increasing opportunities for industry a green space hub in the greater riverfront
improve water quality, and enhance watershed professionals. open space system
health. A Green Street uses vegetated facilities • The City should extend the physical space
to manage storm water run-off at its source. Utilizing a similar approach to the one Portland of Riverbank Park towards downtown to
has undertaken, Flint has the opportunity to increase green space and decrease the
Elements of Portland’s Green Street Program develop a “green streets” initiative to incorporate amount of impervious surface.
include: storm water management practices into the • The City should utilize native landscaping
• Reducing polluted storm water entering design and renovation of parking, streets in parks and along streets and pathways to
rivers and streams and other major pathways. The community support biodiversity of the ecosystem, as
• Improving pedestrian and bicycle safety expressed a desire to develop innovative well as reduce overall maintenance costs.
• Diverting storm water from the sewer system storm water management during downtown • The City should develop a “green streets”
and reducing basement flooding, sewer Neighborhood Action Sessions. Initiative to incorporate storm water
backups and combined sewer overflows management best practices into the design
• Reducing impervious surface so storm By encouraging the incorporation of rain and renovation of parking, streets and other
water can infiltrate to recharge groundwater gardens, green roofs, swales, porous pavement, major pathways.
and surface water and native landscaping into new and existing
• Increasing urban green space parking lots and streets, Flint can take an active
• Improving air quality and reducing air role to improve water quality, reduce runoff, and
temperatures remove pollutants.
Sustainable Action for Great Environments 37
Strengthen downtown stewardship

Successful stewardship will require downtown coordinate development projects and downtown tasked with overseeing the economic and
stakeholder groups to make a commitment to activities, to oversee the development process, physical development of the downtown district.
working together over the long term in order to and to ensure that downtown’s character stays The DDA lists the following as its primary
maintain and promote a shared vision of what consistent with an established long-term plan. responsibilities:
downtown should be. Businesses and residents
need forums to discuss issues that are important The Vibrant Downtown plan proposes a • Development and advocacy of long range
to them, as well as a clearly defined downtown stewardship structure that includes the plans for the reuse of vacant facilities
manager to help them implement ideas that will Downtown Development Authority, the • Acquisition and disposal of property
improve the downtown experience. Meanwhile, Downtown Small Business Association, and • Restoration and preservation of old
the district as a whole needs this manager to the Downtown Neighborhood Association. buildings
These organizations already exist in Flint, but • Correction and prevention of deterioration
their roles need to be more clearly defined, • Promotion of economic development
especially in relationship to one another. projects in Downtown
Flint has a Downtown Development Authority • Managing off-street and on-street parking
facilities
• Maintenance and beautification throughout
the District

View of Flint’s historic and modern adaptation


of historical currents extending from 1st Street to
2nd Street

38 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


Recommendations:
Currently, this translates into street maintenance, The DDA may need to make several internal • The Mayor should show that downtown
parking management and the recent dedication changes as well, and this will require attention redevelopment is one of the city’s priorities
of a new downtown parking structure, some from City Hall. Due to difficult political transitions by completing new appointments to the
maintenance of Riverbank Park, and taking over the past few years, the appointment of DDA.
a part in holiday programming. The DDA also new members to the DDA has been forgotten— • The Mayor should appoint a new CEO
works in conjunction with other organizations most of the DDA’s current members are serving who has a thorough knowledge of how
to share the burden of beautification efforts like expired terms. A common theme in feedback successful DDAs have operated in other
clearing snow and planting flowers, and cleans from community members is that the DDA cities. Alternatively, the DDA could hire
up after large events. needs to be refreshed, that its members need a consultant who could advise on these
to be more proactive and open to new ideas. matters. The goal, however, is for someone
Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between the with outside knowledge to combine his or
DDA’s work and public perception of its work. Ideally, the DDA will expand its capacity to fulfill her expertise with the knowledge of current
Input from the community indicates that the the role of primary manager of the downtown board members to steer the DDA in a new
DDA’s involvement in downtown development district in time to execute the 5-year plan that direction.
is relatively low, and reveals public skepticism results from the Downtowns of Promise program. • The DDA should review its mission
about the DDA’s operations in general. Some Its role at that time will be to act as the hub statement and responsibilities, create
claim that the DDA accomplishes very little, and in a formalized working relationship between a series of benchmarks to measure its
still others are unaware of its existence. This itself, the DSBA, and the DNA. It should also success, and create a short-term plan—up
disconnect is problematic because the DDA’s be able to synthesize public opinion and expert to 5 years—to reach those benchmarks.
success depends on the trust of the people and recommendations into a comprehensive area
their willingness to support its initiatives. The plan to be incorporated into the City of Flint’s
DDA will have to improve its public outreach official updated master plan.
by increasing transparency and actively
communicating with the public about its work.

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 39


• The DDA should promote transparency and • Information about how community The Downtown Small Business Association
make an effort to connect to the public. members can participate or assist in and the Downtown Neighborhood Association
• Encourage members of the public to current and upcoming projects also have roles to play. The two organizations
attend all DDA meetings • Profiles and contact information of all have similar missions. Anyone can join the
• Ensure that meetings take place DDA members DSBA; currently the membership includes
at reasonable times for public • Frequent and regular updates business owners, supporters, and others
participation who have an interest in the downtown area.
• Announce meeting dates and times Members determine initiatives that would
on the internet, in the local newspaper, benefit downtown businesses and then find
and on the City of Flint website the proper channels to implement them. Past
• Incorporate public input into initiatives include consolidating trash collection
development strategies among business owners, and the group is
• Make the DDA website more open working to install bike racks on Saginaw
and informative. The website should Street. Recently, the DSBA has become more
provide the following: active in terms of outreach, and will be using
• Details about the DDA’s current programming to introduce more community
initiatives members to the organization. Much of the
• News related to downtown DSBA’s cooperation in the past has been with
development the DDA, especially regarding snow clearance
• Details about past achievements and other maintenance, but there is room for
• Recognition of the DDA’s community growth and for cultivating a relationship with the
partnerships DNA.
• A calendar of events

40 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


Recommendations
The DNA is a very new organization, formed • The three organizations should formalize
in 2009 by members of the Downtown Loft their interactions in terms of a communication
Association. The membership consists mostly schedule to maintain a constant exchange
of loft residents from central downtown, but of ideas and initiation of projects. This may
also includes those living in houses on the involve meetings between representatives,
outskirts that are not a part of any other presentations made by each group at the
neighborhood. Its mission is to make the area regular meetings of the other groups, and
more livable for residents by working with the appointment of liaisons.
local government and the DDA to bring new • Once a working relationship has been
businesses and tenants downtown. The DNA established, the DDA should organize
foresees itself helping prospective residents efforts to create an area plan to be included
find housing within their budgets by compiling in Flint’s updated master plan. The DDA
a list of all the available spaces being provided should coordinate with the DSBA and DNA
by different companies. The group also plans to gather input from downtown stakeholders
to advocate for what residents need in terms of to be incorporated into the plan. This plan
products and services, and to determine how should encapsulate a vision for the types of
many residents are available to support those uses and physical designs that will define
businesses. The Loft Association may have downtown Flint for years to come.
had some cooperation with the DDA in the
past, but the new DNA has the capacity to form
much more productive relationships with both
the DDA and DSBA.

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 41


New Flint business cluster in concert with loft housing development between Kearsley and 1st Street
42 Sustainable Action for Great Environments
Activity
Overview Objectives
For downtown Flint to be vibrant, it needs to to be spontaneous downtown, and would like
Organize event promotion and
be a setting where things take place—where to see greater accessibility to activities during programming
people can be active and engaged with the leisure time that, currently, does not necessarily
neighborhood. The community generally coincide with downtown’s hours of operation. Develop diversity of uses
agrees: downtown is much livelier than it was Flint residents are proud of the signature
Encourage 24-hour activity
even 5 years ago, and people are happy to activities already present downtown—the
see new businesses emerging along Saginaw. festivals, the restaurants—but they would like
Even so, community members have expressed to see more. This chapter discusses event
a readiness for more variety in the types and programming as an attraction and expression
affordability of the products and services of local character, the expansion of business
available downtown. Residents especially have types and support for entrepreneurs, and the
a very strong desire to see more businesses that development of a 24-hour downtown to suit the
would serve their everyday needs. Meanwhile, lifestyles of the surrounding community.
most of the community agrees that it is difficult

Crim Festival of Races


Sustainable Action for Great Environments 43
Organize event promotion and programming

Recommendations
Programming provides residents with four seasons would help maintain consistency • The DDA should form an events
opportunities to stay downtown, and attracts of activity downtown. This consistency could subcommittee within its Marketing and
visitors to the district who might otherwise have further be established through ongoing weekly Planning Committee. This subcommittee
chosen alternate venues. A number of festivals or monthly events (such as a specific activity would develop a formal submission and
and celebrations currently take place downtown, every Friday evening). review process for the programming of
but the community should encourage further year-round events. Because these events
diversity in programs to meet the needs of are intended to draw all members of the
residents and attract students and visitors. One community together, the committee would
thing that would facilitate this is the creation of endorse those that are non-biased, open,
an easily accessible process for community and which reflect the community’s interests.
groups—such as cultural associations, • The DDA should create and maintain a
religious organizations, non-profits, and student website that contains a complete listing of
groups—to organize events through a central all of the events taking place downtown, as
downtown management body. Ideally, this body well as their dates, times, and details.
would be the DDA. • The DDA should offer planning support for
event organizers by keeping records of
Public input consistently highlights a desire for details of past events, including contacts,
family friendly programming such as outdoor venues, pricing, catering, security, and
movies or concerts, including those using existing funding sources. This resource should be
space, such as Riverbank Park. Community made readily available to people who are
members have also expressed a desire for more interested in hosting events downtown.
student activities and opportunities downtown,
particularly free and affordable programming
options. Furthermore, programming that is
spread evenly and frequently throughout all
44 Sustainable Action for Great Environments
Develop diversity of uses

A common theme in interviews, conversations, Meanwhile, the downtown district does not
and public input sessions with members of the have to wait to employ measures to support
downtown community was a demand for more the ventures of entrepreneurs who are already
variety in the types of businesses downtown, willing to take more risk. Downtown partners
offering a range of products and services. committed to nurturing development should
Common requests are for convenience retail, be especially supportive of local businesses,
such as a drugstore, and specialty retail, which add to the city’s uniqueness by
such as boutiques and crafts. Most downtown representing its local character. Flint LISC,
stakeholders seem to be aware of this demand, the DDA, and other partners should work to
including developers, but the question is create a business incubation and support
whether and how to encourage such a range center where entrepreneurs can easily access
when there is no guarantee that the area has advice, a review of their plans by someone
enough users to support them. The current who understands city and state ordinances,
development pattern, which is mixed use that and information regarding potential funding
typically stacks offices and lofts on top of sources.
ground-level food service, is the result of careful
“...You have to stay positive… setting up a business strategizing by developers who are waiting for
in downtown is a huge gamble that people should
be willing to take because it is fun and being a part that guarantee. For further discussion, see
of the revitalization effort is amazing…” Scott Whipple’s interview in Appendix C.
(Tami O’Neill Harchick, Owner, Garibella Salon; See
interview, Appendix C)

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 45


South Downtown

North Downtown

Existing Activities Map

46 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


Recommendations
One past source of financial support is the Flint Such associations would be able to coordinate • The DDA should communicate with
Renaissance Zone program, which provides initiatives like alley enhancements. developers to understand their strategies
state and local tax exemptions, as well as grants for undertaking projects. If developers
and loans, to businesses and residents within While a market study was beyond the scope of are waiting for specific conditions that are
one of seven designated areas in the city. The this project, SAGE can make suggestions as to compatible with the district’s long-term
downtown district is one of these areas, but its what types of businesses to encourage. First, vision, then the DDA should work with them
designation expires in 2015. It is unclear how the DNA is an excellent forum for residents to to bring about those conditions.
much this designation has contributed to the discuss the types of products and services that • The downtown development community
recent increase in downtown development, but would make downtown more livable for them should encourage local entrepreneurs by
the correlation warrants an in-depth evaluation and more attractive for potential residents. It creating a business incubation and support
that weighs the actual benefits created by will also be an important player in organizing center. This center should provide access to
the program against the costs that the city area residents to support those businesses advising, plan review by city administrators
incurred as a result. For further discussion of once they emerge. Second, a good measure of or other persons familiar with city and state
this evaluation and the potential renewal of the business diversity is how well the area provides code, and information on funding sources.
program, see Appendix D. for people in every age group. The downtown Ideally, this center would be in proximity
community includes families with young to relevant municipal buildings or financial
The DDA and DSBA can offer further support children, students, and seniors, and community institutions.
for existing businesses through promotion members have expressed a desire to see
and by responding to the needs of business amenities geared towards them. These two
owners. An additional level of management suggestions really go towards ensuring that the
could be provided by block-level associations businesses developed in valuable downtown
of business and property owners in close space are relevant to the community that will
proximity to one another that share either a use it.
block with a unique character, or one that
has a shared physical resource like an alley.
Sustainable Action for Great Environments 47
• The DDA should conduct an evaluation • The number and type of job
of the downtown Renaissance Zone opportunities created and lost since
designation to determine whether or not it is 1997
worth extending past 2015. The evaluation • For recommendations for extension of
should consider the following information: the designation, see Appendix D
• The number of businesses downtown • The DDA should encourage businesses
annually starting in 1997 (the year the that provide products and services for all
Renaissance Zone was instated): this age groups.
data should track type of business, • Business and property owners that share
size, number of employees, and a common character or physical resource
number of patrons should consider forming an association
• A survey of business owners to find to deal specifically with activities and
out what impact the Renaissance promotions taking place on their block.
Zone has had on drawing them to
the area and/or maintaining their
businesses downtown
• An annual report of financial tax loss
to determine availability of future tax
base
• A report on openings and closings of
businesses starting in 1997

48 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


Encourage 24-hour activity

Although a substantial amount of development Flint’s downtown should be a vibrant corridor


has occurred recently in downtown Flint that with a range of affordable options, aimed at a
provides increased restaurant and retail variety of people, including students, families,
opportunities, the opportunity to LIVE, WORK, local residents, youth, and seniors, with
and PLAY downtown is greatly limited by hours opportunities available throughout the day and
of operation and lack of pubic space for leisure evening.
activities.

Public input continues to highlight community


members concerns about the lack of diversity
in amenities and retail opportunities available
downtown. Making downtown Flint a 24/7
city was one of 15 action item priorities for
downtown from Downtown Neighborhood
Action Sessions. There is a strong desire for
a LIVE/WORK/PLAY environment with 24-hour
opportunities available. People are currently
able to live and work downtown, but few
options exist for leisure activities, particularly in
the evening. Many establishments shut down
in the early evening, requiring residents to drive
to necessary or desired services. Meanwhile,
students have limited options for socialzing
with peers after class in the downtown district. Saginaw Street festive illumination hilghlights historic arches and laterns
Streets are emptied at dark.
Sustainable Action for Great Environments 49
Spontaneous Recreation Private Activities
Spontaneous recreation provides users with encourages users to interact with both the art One of the major concerns of current residents
informal opportunities to come together and build piece and each other. Incorporating small and community members is the limiting of
community through play and leisure activities. plazas and informal outdoor seating space activity downtown due to hours of operation of
Informal gathering spaces provide users with into downtown allows for opportunities to private establishments. In order to establish
opportunities to congregate and eat, study, and gather, relax, and interact outside of formal downtown as a vibrant LIVE, WORK, and PLAY
converse together. Few opportunities currently establishments. environment, attempts should be made to work
exist in Flint for spontaneous recreation, and with current business owners to extend hours
there is little to no informal space available for and provide affordable opportunities for all
communal gathering in the downtown district. users.
Users must rely upon formal establishments
and are bound by hours, cost, and rules set The Downtown Small Business Association
forth by those establishments. It is essential should find ways to make it feasible for
to develop space for informal gathering and businesses to stay open later, and work with
spontaneous recreation within the district that business owners to develop opportunities to
provide affordable opportunities for a variety of further connect with students, such as open
users. houses, evening events, and special weekly or
monthly events.
By providing sport courts—such as bocce
ball, basketball, and/or volleyball—in public
spaces, will encourage physical activity and
opportunities for populations that may not have
other accessibility to yards or private open
space. Incorporating public art into downtown

50 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


Recommendations:
• The City should provide sport courts, such
as bocce ball, basketball, and/or volleyball,
in public spaces to encourage spontaneous
recreation.
• The DDA should work to incorporate public
art into downtown.
• The City should incorporate small plazas
and informal outdoor seating space into
downtown to allow for opportunities to
gather, relax, and interact outside of formal
establishments.
• The DDA should develop family friendly
programming and specific student activities
and opportunities downtown. Provide
ongoing opportunities throughout all
seasons to maintain consistency of activity
downtown.

Sidewalk seating and dinning along 2nd Street with


perspective of the Dryden Building

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 51


52 Sustainable Action for Great Environments
Connectivity
Overview Objectives
Downtown Flint is the center of a larger region. next step is to focus on details. This chapter
Adopt wayfinding standards
It serves as the juncture between important proposes the adoption of a wayfinding system
neighborhoods in the area, like Grand Traverse to guide people into and through downtown, Strengthen connections to other
to the west, Carriage Town to the northwest, and improvements to downtown’s connections to neighborhoods
the Cultural Center to the east. The university nearby neighborhoods to encourage more
Create a comprehensive parking plan
campuses are also located nearby—much traffic into downtown, and a comprehensive
of the University of Michigan-Flint lies in or parking plan.
adjacent to the main corridor, and new student
residences are sited near the heart of downtown.
Strengthening downtown means enhancing its
connections to all of these places and to the
region as a whole. Recent initiatives have laid
the groundwork for this enhancement, but the

Park”ing” Day 2008 Saginaw - Rethinking connectivity as a public space in downtown


Sustainable Action for Great Environments 53
Adopt wayfinding standards

Vehicular Pedestrian
Wayfinding refers to a system of signs and The downtown corridor lies within one mile of Signs meant for pedestrians can serve two
maps designed to help people navigate an I-69 and I-475, and within five miles of I-75. functions. First, they indicate that walking is
area. This plan recommends that downtown However, no clearly indicated paths exist a safe and acceptable method of exploring
Flint implement wayfinding signs throughout between the interstate ramps and Saginaw downtown and nearby neighborhoods like
downtown and in nearby neighborhoods. The Street. There should be signs to direct traffic Carriage Town and the Cultural Center. They
addition of wayfinding signs and directories will along an efficient path into downtown and reinforce the idea that downtown is not isolated
help guide infrequent visitors to Saginaw from towards public parking structures. In the same from these areas. Second, they can inform
the highway and other entrance points. They vein, there should be signs to help people return people about potential activities and attractions,
will also help define the spatial relationships to the highways from downtown. This would be and encourage people to visit them by making
between downtown’s landmarks and especially useful for newcomers and infrequent them easier to find. The City of Ann Arbor uses
attractions, as well as downtown’s relationship visitors who are unfamiliar with the area’s one- signs that state the distance between locations
to surrounding areas. way street system. both in length and in the amount of time it takes
• Signs directing traffic to and from highway to walk that distance. The signs can direct
Scale entrances and exits pedestrians towards well-maintained connector
Wayfinding signs and directories should serve • Signs directing traffic to and from major streets that are fitted with amenities like lighting
the different modes by which people access roads, neighborhoods, parks, the Farmer’s and planters that can make walking a safer and
downtown. Market, and the universities more pleasant experience.
• Signs directing cars towards parking
structures

54 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


Bicycle Destinations
• Signs indicating the direction and distance Cycling is not currently a well-supported form of Wayfinding signs also serve to make people
of Grand Traverse, Carriage Town, and the transportation in Flint. As this plan proposes the aware of other places that they might want to
Cultural Center addition of bicycle lanes and paths to the city’s visit and would increase public awareness of
• Signs leading pedestrians along specially transportation system, it proposes coordinating Flint’s major landmarks. Though Flint should
designed connector streets (for longer signs as well. This would signal that cycling is be careful not to overwhelm the relatively small
distances) an acceptable and expected way of traveling downtown corridor with excess signs, it should
• Signs indicating the direction and distance through downtown and potentially encourage use wayfinding to draw attention to the following
of attractions, parks, and UM-Flint more casual bike travel from nearby residential sites:
• Directory maps showing the viewer’s neighborhoods and suburban areas. • UM-Flint
location relative to downtown attractions, • Signs indicating dedicated bike lanes and • Riverbank Park
as well as nearby neighborhoods and their paths • Flint Farmer’s Market
main attractions • Signs directing cyclists between downtown • Grand Traverse, Carriage Town, and
and other neighborhoods, including Cultural Center neighborhoods
distance information • City Hall

In many other cities, wayfinding has been


implemented by the DDA. Because it has
components related to beautification,
transportation, and marketing, this project
would be best implemented by the Flint DDA.

Examples of signage give detailed information


about how to navigate the streets

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 55


Recommendations
• The DDA should implement a wayfinding • The final design may be modified • Though aspects of the signs should be
system that serves drivers, pedestrians, to fit wayfinding conventions standardized throughout neighborhoods,
and cyclists, and which calls attention to • The process should still be certain features like color or icons could
main destinations in and around downtown. moderated or guided by a be unique to each neighborhood in order
• The DDA should work with the City of consultant familiar with wayfinding to differentiate between their separate
Flint and the surrounding neighborhoods conventions identities.
of Grand Traverse, Carriage Town, and • Hold a design charrette to determine
For information on how other cities have approached
the Cultural Center to coordinate similar community preferences, then hire wayfinding, see the Wayfinding Recommendations
signage to facilitate navigation between a designer or firm to create a small and Analysis Ann Arbor, MI (Corbin Design), which
details the strategy behind the city’s wayfinding
these areas. number of options based on those
system, as well as the Downtown Wayfinding Plan
• The DDA should seek a design process preferences for Baton Rouge, LA (Sasaki), which is a catalogue
that involves the community as much as • The public would be welcome to of all of the styles and standards to which the city’s
signs adhere.
possible. Here are two possible options for judge charrette designs
undertaking the design process. • Has an event-like quality
• Solicit design submissions from • A designer or firm would create a
community members and students of number of designs based on the
all ages results of the charrette
• Highest level of engagement with • The public would vote on the final
the community options created by the designer or
• Has an event-like quality firm
• Could be very fruitful given the
robust artistic culture in the area
• Entries would be presented to the
public for input and critique before
selection
56 Sustainable Action for Great Environments
Strengthen connections to other neighborhoods

Flint’s downtown should be a pedestrian- Both the Uptown Reinvestment Strategy and Developing multimodal forms of transportation
friendly environment that attracts residents from the Flint Cultural Center Master Plan express into downtown, particularly via bicycle and
all over the city. Currently, the automobile and a need for a developed connection between pedestrian trails, will encourage more people
roadways serve as the major linkages between the cultural center through downtown into to go downtown from adjacent neighborhoods,
Flint’s major landmarks, institutions, and UM-Flint campus. Additionally, it is difficult to including Grand Traverse, Carriage Town,
neighborhoods. Few safe pedestrian pathways navigate the intricate web of highway systems the Cultural Center, and the three university
or bicycle paths currently exist. Reliance on the into downtown that lead towards the UM-Flint campuses. Accessibility for diverse users and
automobile to draw users to downtown severely campus. an availability of transportation options will
limits a diversity of users. further encourage downtown activity.
FLINT NEIGHBORHOODS

Buick City

Kearsley-Longway-Eastside

Cultural
Center

Mott Community
University of College
Michigan-
Flint

College and Cultural


Mott Park Carriage Town
Central Park Neighborhood
Third Neighborhood
Avenue

DOWNTOWN
FLINT
Kettering
Glendale Hills University

Grand Traverse

Neighborhoods Map

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 57


Flint River Trail Multimodal Options Connecting to the Cultural Center and
The Flint River Trail currently connects the City and Regional Government in collaboration Grand Traverse neighborhoods
riverbank with downtown and other potential with the DDA should increase multimodal The Flint Uptown Reinvestment Strategy
points of interest including existing trail options through additional bicycle and recommends improving pedestrian connections
connections. The Flint River Corridor Alliance pedestrian friendly pathways into downtown; between downtown and UM-Flint to the Flint
Final Report cites assisting in the completion of utilizing additional pathways to create major Cultural Center, and specifically highlighting
the river trail as a regional system and improving nodes and hubs through downtown and greater Kearsley Street as a way to draw visitors from
and establishing a wayfinding system as one of Flint and further establishing a pedestrian the Cultural Center to downtown amenities.
the group’s goals. Providing additional signage friendly network throughout the city. By designating two major pedestrian
and lighting for the Flint River Trail could help pathways between the Cultural Center and
establish the trail as a major greenway trail Introduction of bike racks at key nodes Downtown Corridor, and implementing lighting,
corridor between Kettering University, UM- throughout downtown and instituting bike lanes landscaping, and signage to increase safety
Flint Downtown, Riverbank Park, the farmers along major auto and pedestrian pathways and accessibility, downtown can link to the
market, and other points of interest in Flint. entering and exiting downtown will increase large number of people that visit the Cultural
accessibility. This has been supported by public Center each day.
This should be a collaborative effort between input from the community.
the Riverbank Authority, City, and DDA. A similar opportunity exists to connect downtown
with the Grand Traverse neighborhood, a 70
square block neighborhood west of downtown
Flint. Two major pedestrian pathways should
be established between Grand Traverse and
the downtown corridor, as well as implementing
lighting, landscaping, and signage to increase
safety and pedestrian accessibility to downtown.

58 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


Connecting to University Campuses Recommendations
Public input, particularly from students, • The City should provide additional signage • The DDA should work with neighborhood
brought up the importance of providing safe and lighting for the Flint River Trail and associations and the City to designate
and accessible transportation between the establish its role as a major greenway two major pedestrian pathways between
university campuses and downtown. Few trail corridor between Kettering University, the Grand Traverse Neighborhood and
transportation options currently exist between UM-Flint Downtown, Riverbank Park, the Downtown Corridor. Implement lighting,
the campuses for students, professors, and farmers market, and other points of interest landscaping, and signage to increase safety
employees. By Employing a Campus Loop in Flint. and accessibility.
Shuttle between Kettering University, University • The City should increase multimodal options • The DDA should work with neighborhood
of Michigan-Flint, Mott Community College and through additional bicycle and pedestrian associations and the City to designate two
downtown, there will be increased accessibility friendly pathways into downtown. Utilize major pedestrian pathways between the
between the campuses, as well as the potential additional pathways to create major nodes Cultural Center and Downtown Corridor.
for drawing additional people downtown. The and hubs through downtown and greater Implement lighting, landscaping, and
shuttle will provide increased options for parking Flint and further establish a pedestrian signage to increase safety and accessibility.
downtown or on campus, increased access to friendly network throughout the city. • The DDA should establish a safe and
downtown amenities and restaurants, and a • The DDA should introduce bike racks at key pedestrian friendly path on the bridge
reduction in automobile usage in the downtown nodes throughout downtown and institute connecting University of Michigan-Flint and
area. bike lanes along major auto and pedestrian Carriage Town with Downtown.
pathways entering and exiting downtown • The universities should employ a Campus
Additionally, establishing a safe and pedestrian for increased accessibility. Loop Shuttle between Kettering University,
friendly path on the bridge connecting University of Michigan-Flint, Mott
University of Michigan-Flint and Carriage Town Community College and downtown.
with Downtown will draw students to downtown
services and amenities.

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 59


Create a comprehensive parking plan

The downtown area needs to implement a Parking management falls under the The Flat Lot, a surface parking lot owned and
constructive planning approach to parking that responsibilities of the DDA, which recently operated by the DDA that occupies a full city block
will identify the locations best suited for parking constructed the Rutherford parking deck at the along Saginaw, is the quintessential example of
and direct motorists there, make the existing intersection of Kearsley and Beach Streets. low-intensity parking disrupting the urban fabric
parking infrastructure more profitable, and Unfortunately, the structure was not as profitable of Flint’s downtown core. Countless public input
encourage policies that will reduce the amount as the DDA had projected and revenue could responses call for new development on that
of surface area devoted to parking while not cover the cost of the project. The City of site, and suggested uses run the spectrum from
promoting density and redevelopment. Flint had to draw from its general improvement public park space to a mixed use project. The
fund to pay the remaining balance. While there University of Michigan-Flint Campus Master
may be other factors involved in the revenue Plan, produced by Sasaki, recommended that
shortfall of the structure, the most critical the site be developed jointly by the City and the
seems to be demand that was far less than University as a park and plaza space, a new
the DDA had anticipated. The existing supply residence hall, and potential retail uses in the
of downtown parking, whether in surface lots ground floor such as a bookstore, small cafe,
or along the curbs, is too large. The DDA, or or neighborhood retail. In the presence of so
one of its partners in downtown development, many ideas, and due to the high-profile nature
needs to create a comprehensive parking plan of the site, any redevelopment process should
to reduce the supply of parking, targeting the include a vigorous public input phase. However,
least spatially efficient sites first. without guarantees that ample convenient
parking exists outside of the Flat Lot, the DDA
is reluctant to begin redevelopment. That is why
a complete count of available parking areas,
and a plan to use them as part of an integrated
Example of potential metered system, is so important. SAGE conducted a
parking solution
preliminary count and found…
60 Sustainable Action for Great Environments
South Downtown

North Downtown

Parking Map

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 61


Recommendations
Though the redevelopment process for any of vulnerability to vandalism that Flint’s former • The DDA should conduct a parking study to
these sites will take time, the City should resist meters had, and the new meters allow for the make a full count of available parking and
the temptation to allow interim parking. Instead, use of credit cards, which are replacing cash as assess an appropriate price for metered
other temporary uses might be considered. means of exchange. parking.
• Using the above study, the DDA should
Part of the plan would involve the restoration of Generally, a well-planned parking system would identify the most inefficient extraneous
metered parking on Saginaw Street. The City transform downtown’s parking supply from a parking sites and slate them for
has approximately 100 of its formerly active financial liability that consumes valuable space redevelopment.
meters in storage, but at least 300 curb spaces into an asset that supports downtown vibrancy. • Closed sites should be kept closed to
to account for. The meters have been absent parking, but offered for other interim uses if
from downtown because their low-quality For more discussion of downtown parking, see necessary, based on suitability of location.
construction were prone to theft and vandalism. Appendix D. • The DDA should install updated “pay-and-
Rather than selectively reinstating these display” parking meters along Saginaw
devices, the DDA should opt for new “pay-and- Street.
display” meters. The economist Donald Shoup • The DDA should adjust the price of parking
argues that these meters are more profitable based on the parking study’s findings.
and easier to maintain in the long-run than
mechanical meters: even though a city will
endure a short-term loss from general fund to
finance the installment of the new technology—
the common rationale for resisting the change—
it would be sound fiscal policy for many cities to
do so if demand for space is sufficiently high.
The “pay-and-display” meters currently being
used in Ann Arbor, Michigan do not have the
62 Sustainable Action for Great Environments
Diversity
Overview Objectives
Downtown Flint is at a defining moment in its social justice and community engagement as
Incorporate social justice into all
transformation from a post-industrial center to a essential elements of the development process redevelopment opportunities
modern, vibrant, and active destination. The city that will ensure that the heart of the city reflects
has the ability to develop options for residents its diverse community. Engage the greater Flint community
who have, until now, been underserved. Thus,
it is paramount that the current revitalization
efforts represent the authentic needs of those
who have a stake in the future of downtown
Flint. This chapter reinforces the values of

Flint residents collaborating to create a mural for a community service project


Sustainable Action for Great Environments 63
Incorporate social justice into all redevelopment opportunities

Social Justice is an elusive concept that Already, many students and residents have Though unequal representation has been
centers around notions of equity, impartiality, expressed that they cannot frequent restaurants an obstacle in the past, initiatives like the
and opportunity. Flint needs to recognize the downtown because of budgetary constraints, Neighborhood Action Sessions used by Mayor
role that it plays in community stabilization and that even the lower-priced lofts are far from Walling’s administration to gather public input
during periods of rapid growth and change. affordable. Some have also noticed that not are the kind of inclusive policies that will help
Redevelopment can present threats to any many socio-economic groups are represented the community move forward. Additionally,
community, often because of its ties to economic in the downtown business community. Those Flint is home to a large network of dedicated
growth. In particular, gentrification may be spearheading the development effort should community leaders, and their ability to facilitate
a challenge that the downtown community stay mindful of these challenges, and look to discussions between different components of
will face in coming years. If redevelopment is Flint’s strengths to resolve them. Flint’s population is extremely valuable.
successful, the value of space downtown is
likely to increase. This could lead to questions
of affordability in terms of the products and
services available, and even of starting and
maintaining business operations.

Including social justice in conversations about


redevelopment to improve well-being of the current
and future residents

64 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


Engage the greater Flint community

Recommendations:
The Neighborhood Action Sessions represent • The community should acknowledge deeply
an important dynamic of the community rooted and contentious issues.
engagement process. These sessions were • Facilitators should bring discussions of
initiated by the mayoral administration, but have these issues into open forums that are
been guided by community activists familiar accessible to all.
with the needs of their neighborhoods. This • The community should use the relationships
relationship between the City and community created through dialogue as tool to move
representatives shows that cooperation and forward.
communication are key. Through this and similar • In collecting public input, facilitators should
efforts, Flint can ensure that development consider issues of accessibility. They
decisions are responsive to the needs of the should offer a variety of meeting times
people, grounded reality, and supported by the and locations, provide adequate notice of
community. meeting schedules, and offer alternatives
to public meetings such as online or mail-in
surveys.
• The development community should
recognize the spectrum of ways different
people can benefit from downtown
redevelopment. The DDA especially
has a responsibility to balance the uses
developed downtown in terms of the people
served. The DDA should consider things
like affordability and the benefits of public
versus private spaces.

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 65


66 Sustainable Action for Great Environments
Conclusion
The following table summarizes SAGE’s final recommendations.

The next step for downtown Flint will be to must recognize that the key to successful community building, downtown Flint needs
define the working relationship between the redevelopment is a shared vision among to plan. The recommendations contained
many partners involved in its development. all members of the community. The City’s within this report are meant to help downtown
Essential to this process will be the improving Neighborhood Action Sessions have already express the true character of its community
the capacity of the Downtown Development given us a glimpse as to what that might be. and preserve that into the future. The last
Authority so that it can effectively manage Once downtown Flint has its own personal word on this project will be a simple guiding
development activity. However, all downtown vision, community members can use that question: Who does this downtown belong to?
stakeholders have a part to play in ensuring vision to plan. Through all of the self-definition,
that cooperation runs smoothly. Everyone drawing of connections, revitalization, and

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 67


Appendices Table of Contents
Appendix A: Inventory Analysis 69
Appendix B: Case Study-Grand Rapids, MI 70
Appendix C: Interviews 75
Appendix D: Implementation Tools 85
Appendix E: Survey 94
Appendix F: Public Input 96

68 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


Appendix A
Inventory Analysis

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 69


Appendix B
Case Study: Grand Rapids
Vibrant Downtown Flint – Request for Proposal

Background
Establishment
Grand Rapids was founded in 1836 on the Grand River. The first formal census in 1845 reported
the city had grown to a population of 1,510 and encompassed an area of 4 square miles. When the
city was officially created in 1850 it had grown to 2,686 inhabitants and by 1857 the city boundary
totaled 10.5 square miles. 1

Industry
Grand Rapids had long been know as a center for furniture and automobile manufacturing. From
1880 through 1922 Grand Rapids saw the growth of the furniture industries including the arrival
of Sligh Furniture Company (1880)2, Kindel Furniture Company (1912)3, and Hekman/Woodmark
Furniture Company (1922).4 Today, many major furniture manufacturers are still headquartered in
Grand Rapids including American Seating, Steelcase, Haworth, and Herman Miller.5

Turning Point
In the 1980s economic decline, suburban flight, and falling sales caused major department stores
Lazarus, Jacobson’s, Sketetee’s, and Wurzburg’s to close or consolidate leading to the downfall of
downtown. Although reinvestment efforts started during this tumultuous time, economic developers
and city officials believe that the turning point of the downtown area occured in the mid-1990s
with the development of the Van Andel Arena.6 Since opening in 1996, the Van Andel Arena has
become one of the highest performing arenas in the country for its size.7 Over the last 20 years,
revitalization has continued with the redevelopment of the west shore of the Grand River, as well
as projects like the Gerald Ford Presidential Library, the new Grand Rapids Public Museum, and
70 Sustainable Action for Great Environments
the downtown campus for Grand Valley State University.8

Revitalization Strategies
Public/Private Partnerships
One of the driving forces that account for the success of Grand Rapids is attributed to the vitality
of public/private partnerships with big companies with roots in the city like Steelcase, Amway, and
Meijer. Many of the buildings on the Grand State Valley Campus and downtown bear the names of
the business leaders such as Meijer, Devos (Amway), Stryker, and Pew (Steelcase).9
Life Sciences Cluster
In 1997, the area’s two largest hospitals merged to form Spectrum Health. This was one of the most
significant elements of Grand Rapid’s redevelopment and laid the foundation for the concentration
of health care assets in one part of the city know as the “Medical Mile,” along Michigan Avenue.
In 2000, the Van Andel Institute was created to support efforts to make Grand Rapids a leader in
medical science and education. It is estimated that the Institute brings in $30 million to the local
economy each year. Additionally, Michigan State University recently announced that it will build a
$70 million medical school in Grand Rapids.10
Renaissance Zone Program
One of the smartest incentives for downtown development was the creation of the Renaissance
Tax Free Zone. It allowed eligible businesses and residential homes be exempt from paying Grand
Rapids City income tax, Michigan income tax, Michigan SBT tax, and Property tax until 2009.
When the benefits expired in 2009, recipients were responsible to pay 25% of their tax burden,
50% in 2010, 75% in 2011, and 100% from 2012 on. This act has been a positive economic
stimulus, and has expanded to similar programs encouraging rental properties and condominium
development.11

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 71


Support Organizations
Grand Action Committee: The catalyst for public/private partnerships. A non-profit organization of
local group of civic leaders that seek out new public/private investment opportunities that will spark
development in the community.12
The Downtown Alliance: An organization designed, governed and implemented by downtown
stakeholders to strengthen the area. It is composed of a 24 person Board of Directors, which
include property and business owners, residents, non-profit entities, education and government
representatives. The alliance includes four committees that specifically look at maintenance and
beautification, marketing, merchants, and policy for driving development.13
The Downtown Development Authority (DDA): Established in 1979, has helped to finance
projects and incentivize construction by allowing an incremental property tax. Examples of past
projects:
Van Andel Arena
Expansion of the convention center (now known as Devos Place)
Construction of the new Grand Rapids Art Musuem,
Construction of the Interurban Transit Partnership’s Rapid Station Transit Center
Reconstruction of Monroe Center & Rosa Parks Circle
Construction of Heartside Park
Reconstruction of historic Ionia Ave.
The Downtown Improvement District (DID): Launched in 2001, the DID helps to manage the renewal
process, and ensures that the work of the Business Improvement District (BID) is carried out.14

Challenges for the Future


Unemployment and the school system are struggling to turn itself around. Though downtown
growth has experienced an emergence, the community is still in need of repair. Adapting from and
72 Sustainable Action for Great Environments
industrial-based economy to a knowledge-based economy will require the community to produce
education that is competitive in the new, global economy. Additionally, without adequate schooling,
young families may be reluctant to move to the city to maintain activity and sustain business.15 The
life science cluster has helped to usher in technology-based economic development, but much of
the city’s legacy industries are related to manufacturing. Strong schools and public support will be
needed so that students can compete in a global manufacturing market.

Implications
Grand Rapids’ success can be attributed to the identification of how to use its main resource,
the river, innovative tax incentives, creation of a life sciences corridor, and partnerships with big
businesses and Michigan State University. Learning from these efforts, there is an opportunity to
successfully promote growth of the downtown area and re-frame Flint’s character from an industrial-
based economy.
Though Flint does not have a major river on which to focus, it has many other assets to develop
the downtown area. It has support organizations like the Mott Foundation, the Genesee Institute,
and LISC that are dedicated to redevelopment. It has a groundswell of local agricultural initiatives,
many local private businesses, and is host to a variety of academic institutions including University
of Michigan-Flint, Kettering University, and Mott Community College. Finding ways to utilize the
surrounding educational establishments and partnering with big companies will help build the
foundation for downtown and create networking opportunities. Some companies in the area include:
Amtrak
Rowe Professional Services Company
Citizens Bank
A program that is garnering momentum in Flint is the idea to create a vibrant core for commercial
business and gradually develop sections of downtown around it. In the last 5 years, the most recent
Sustainable Action for Great Environments 73
Downtown Grand Rapids

example is the blocks between 1st and 3rd street. As this model begins to flourish, downtown Flint
businesses can use some of the strategies implemented in Grand Rapids over the last 20 years to
greatly increase efficiency, improve the development, and attract public interest.

Resources

1. Official Site of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Grand Rapids Historical Perspective. Retrieved February 24, 2010. Available from www.
ci.grand-rapids.mi.us/index.pl?page_id=12
2. Sligh Furniture Company. History. Retrieved February 23, 2010. Available from www.sligh.com/history.php. 2010.
3. Kindel Furniture. History. Retrieved February 23, 2010. Available from www.kindelfurniture.com/history/. 2009.
4. Hekman/Woodmark Furniture Company. Hekman History. Retrieved February 23, 2010. Available from www.hekman.com/Info/About/
Hekman.aspx. date=2007
5. About Steelcase: www.steelcase.com/na/about_steelcase_ourcompany.aspx?f=10036
6. Sustainable Land Development Today. The Revitalization of Grand Rapids Retrieved February 23, 2010. Available from www.
sldtonline.com/content/view/132/37/
7. Ibid.
8. Ibid.
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid.
11. Grand Rapids Real Estate Musings. How Smart government is Revitalizing Dowtown Grand Rapids, MI.
Retrieved February 24, 2010. Available from sellgrandrapidshomes.wordpress.com/2008/02/08/how-smart-government-is-revitalizing-
downtown-grand-rapids-michigan/
12. Sustainable Land Development Today. The Revitalization of Grand Rapids Retrieved February 23, 2010. Available from www.
sldtonline.com/content/view/132/37/
13. Downtown Grand Rapids. Downtown Resources. Retrieved February 23, 2010. Available from downtowngr.org/about_us.php Center City
14. Ibid.
15. Sustainable Land Development Today. The Revitalization of Grand Rapids Retrieved February 23, 2010. Available from www.
sldtonline.com/content/view/132/37/
1
Maps 1. MSU Secchia
1. Official Site of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Map of Downtown. Retrieved February 24, 2010. Available from www.ci.grand-rapids.mi.us/ Center
index.pl?page_id=203 2
2. Official Site of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Center City. Retrieved February 24, 2010. Available from www.ci.grand-rapids.mi.us/index.
pl?page_id=10523 2. Van Andel
3 Institute

3. Devos Place

4 4. Amway Grand
Plaza Hotel

5. Van Andel Arena

74 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


Appendix C
Interviews
Tami O’Neill Harchick, Owner, Garibella Salon

Tami O’Neill Harchick is originally from Davison, MI, approximately fifteen miles east of
Flint. Her decision to open Garibella Salon downtown was driven by multiple factors including a
demand from the college students, tax breaks for locating in a Renaissance Zone, less expensive
rent, and being located in a brand new building. Additionally, she has family connections to the
historic Torch bar and grill in downtown. Garibella salon was opened on December 2, 2009. It is
part of the crop of new businesses on Saginaw Street between 1st and 3rd.
Key Themes and Lessons
Resurgence
Over the last five years, a resurgence of new businesses and residential areas have
sprouted up in downtown Flint. It is part of a continuing effort to change the area and create
a core of activity in the city. Businesses owners have met the efforts with resilience and are
creating a tight knit infrastructure with the intent to reframe downtown. When I asked Mrs.
Harchick to name one thing that anyone looking to develop downtown Flint should keep in mind,
she responded that “you have to stay positive. Setting up a business in downtown is a huge
gamble, but a gamble that people should be willing to take because it is fun and being a part of
the revitalization effort is amazing!” Many of Mrs. Harchick’s comments in this interview were
filled with passion and a sense of esprit de corps.
Mrs. Harchick was adamant about expressing her role to in the effort to rebuild and
revitalize the area. She acknowledged that not that many people are aware of the effort, and
that many who live around Flint are still afraid of the negative stigmas caused by the attraction
of crime and homeless people after the collapse of the auto industry. When asked about being a
part of the revitalization effort she commented that “more and more the news is broadcasting all
the changes that have started happening” acknowledging the opening of new businesses.
Sustainable Action for Great Environments 75
Increasing awareness of Flint’s revitalization of downtown was a major theme of the
conversation. To get a more focused understanding, I asked her what she did to get word out
about the salon. She replied that most of the salon’s advertising is primarily conducted through
word of mouth and targeted at the downtown area. According to Mrs. Harchick, during the week
there are five thousand people in downtown. One of the most effective ways of spreading the
word is to approach people on the street or talk to people who walk by the salon. Other ways
of creating awareness include meet-and-greets, some television and radio promotion, and
Facebook. While Mrs. Harchick is reaching people in the downtown area, creating awareness in
the greater Flint area was not the case. As it stands, downtown exists as a pocket of activity that
has yet to get regional recognition.
Downtown character
Though the goal is to recreate a downtown that will attract business, Mrs. Harchick
expressed that a sense of history must be maintained. In particular, she felt that the buildings,
the arches, and the brick paving were an important elements of that character. She described
the area between 1st and 3rd Street as being the place in which all the action happens. When
asked about how she envisioned downtown in the next five years, Mrs. Harchick responded that
she “would like to see a clothing store or boutique, a pharmacy and different things to complete
downtown, so college students could have accessibility to everything they need.
Part of talking about character, was addressing the challenge of rebranding Flint as a
college town. Mrs. Harchick voiced her frustration about the University of Michigan-Flint’s policy
about not advertising on campus saying, “None of us can let them know what we’re doing...I have
heard several other business owner say they don’t even know we’re here or they don’t know the
specials we’re running or anything about it.” Though 500 students now live in the dorms now and
many more will be moving into the newly refurbished Hotel Durant this summer, the Unversity’s
unwillingness to cooperate is still a point of contention that hinders growth.
76 Sustainable Action for Great Environments
Despite the struggles with the university, new business developments are attracting a
wide range of customers including an elderly generation who remember what downtown Flint
was like in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. As Mrs. Harchick put it, “For them, coming to shop downtown
with their parents and eating on Sundays at the Durant Hotel was a huge deal, so to see that stuff
coming back is really exciting.” She also talked about how the salon brings back memories for
several old ladies who come in for perms and roller sets. This resurgence has not only added a
spark to the community, it has brought back some of the character of downtown by bringing back
the people who new what it was in its glory days.
Throughout the interview, Mrs. Harchick emphasized the family atmosphere of downtown.
She talked about how the salon has become a node for people downtown. It has attracted a
variety of customers and “regulars” who often just come to visit. She referred to her relationship
with other business owners as neighborly. They support each other by spending money at each
others shops, and they socialize outside of work regularly. When asked about any politics or
challenges dealing with other owners, she responded that the downtown community was made
up of people who wanted to be there, and that politics between owners was not a factor.
Community is further promoted by an agreement with Uptown Reinvestment that
promised to encourage a local business focus and not let big store chains come in that would
hurt them. Mrs. Harchick commented that this promise was one of the incentives that attracted
her to downtown. It is an important committment to Flint’s business owners, who have invested a
lot of money.
Implications
Though initially we had thought of physical design as a focus of creating a vibrant
character, it has become increasingly clear that downtown Flint is made up of more than just
buildings, streets, and landscapes. This interview has underscored the importance of thinking
about downtown by understanding the people. Moving forward, it is vital that the group integrate
Sustainable Action for Great Environments 77
this sensibility into our understanding of what we hope to contribute back to the community.
Talking to Mrs. Harchick, I realized that dowtown Flint is a place of hidden stories. The
efforts to regenerate activity and promote life in downtown are not being allowed to flourish in
greater Flint, and are still overshadowed by the associations with the fall of the auto industry. As a
result, only a small contingent of people are aware that a rebirth is taking place in downtown. This
interview can teach us that the creating awareness about what is happening in downtown has to
be a main part of its revitalization. Furthermore, the awareness needs to include the sentiment
that a new generation is driving the regrowth and creating their own town - one that eliminates
the reliance of a major industry and is deeply rooted in local businesses.
Finally, the interview was important to remind us about our role in this project. We must
recognize that the people of Flint were there before we started the project and will be there
after we leave. Mrs. Harchick’s passion and connection to the community made this project
meaningful, and made it clear that it would be a mistake to continue to think of it as learning
experiment.

78 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


Scott Whipple, Uptown Developments, LLC

The following is a summary of an interview with Scott Whipple of Uptown Developments, LLC
conducted on March 15, 2010. One goal of the interview was to help our team better understand
Flint as an environment for development—whether projects there tend to be successful,
what obstacles developers can expect to encounter, as well as what opportunities developers
might use to their advantage. I’d like to draw your attention his insights regarding downtown
development patterns, the difficulties that developers face when securing financing, and
downtown’s pre-existing assets, as well as my own assessment of what they mean for our project.

Role of the Interviewee


Scott Whipple is a project manager at Uptown Developments (Uptown), which is a major
developer of real estate in downtown Flint. Uptown started a decade ago as the Focus Council, at
a time when downtown Flint was greatly lacking in public-sector activity. The group received a grant
from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to acquire about a dozen buildings along
Saginaw, and began redeveloping them with private investments made by several well-established
Flint families. In the years since, the company has been responsible for many of downtown’s most
high-profile projects, including the Rowe Building, First Street Lofts, and the Wade-Trim Building.
Additionally, Uptown works closely with a group of dedicated partners, including the non-profit
Uptown Reinvestment Corporation, which commissioned the Uptown Reinvestment Strategy in 2003.
Scott’s role is to oversee construction of Uptown’s projects, then manage them once
they are occupied. He is originally from Grand Blanc and attended Michigan State University
as a student of urban planning. He has worked as a planner in a number of municipalities
across the country, but returned to Flint seven years ago to join Uptown Developments.
Because so much of our project revolves around creating opportunities for local entrepreneurs,
it was natural to seek the perspective of someone already familiar with the process. Scott
Whipple’s passion for Flint, knowledge of the area, and experience as a planner make him

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 79


an excellent resource, and he was happy to share a great deal of helpful information with us.

Key Themes and Lessons


Development Patterns
I asked Scott a series of questions about Uptown’s approach to the redevelopment of the
downtown area. His response was that their downtown properties should be redeveloped as mixed-
use projects because that was the format for which they were originally constructed. In fact, he feels
very strongly about the advantages associated with mixed use. Primarily, mixed-use projects can
enjoy a more diverse income base—if one occupant suddenly loses viability, the others are still there
to support the building. I also inquired after the density of existing uses along Saginaw and learned
that about half is occupied office and residential space, not including the street-level store fronts.
Uptown Developments has thus far courted three uses exclusively: food service, office, and
residential. Our team has been especially curious about the prevalence of food service and loft
housing along Saginaw to the apparent exclusion of retail and affordable housing, so I took the
opportunity to uncover the rationale behind these developments. To explain the loft housing, Scott
said that, from the beginning, developers in other cities recommended that Uptown “reach for
the stars.” They knew that whatever initial development they attempted would set the stage for
everything that would eventually follow, and therefore wanted to start with a more prosperous
vision. So far, the lofts have been a success—all units are currently occupied and there is even a
waiting list. Other developers have followed suit and provided more high-end housing in the area. I
asked Scott whether downtown Flint would ever see affordable housing, and he was confident that
it would. Uptown itself plans to eventually contribute more affordable housing options, though as far
as pricing goes for a downtown loft, the current rate of $550 to $1,000 per month is still relatively low.
Meanwhile, Uptown Developments has made a conscious effort to develop restaurants
instead of retail. They feel that the area does not yet have the density to support successful retail stores.
80 Sustainable Action for Great Environments
As that changes, they may consider developing for apparel, especially if it is marketable towards
college students. However, particularly considering the economic climate, now is not the right time.
Our team also wondered about the lack of national chains in the downtown corridor. One
suggestion we had received in the course of our case studies and other research was to
create a balance of local and national or regional businesses. When I asked Scott why
this did not already exist, he declared that they simply do not want chains, at least not
yet. Uptown Developments wants to nurture Flint’s unique character through encouraging
local entrepreneurship, and therefore has refused opportunities to develop for chains.
Lastly, I wanted to know how closely Uptown adheres to the Uptown Reinvestment Strategy.
Scott claims that they have been following it very closely and attests to the soundness
of the plan. This is important information because it helps us understand the company’s
long-term strategy for Flint. Because Uptown is so influential in its sector—it owns a large
percentage of property in the main corridor and sets precedents for other developers—this
knowledge can give us an idea of how Flint may actually develop over the next few years.

Here are the lessons we took away from this portion of the interview:
1) We realized that we may not want to encourage the development of national chains just yet. One
of our main goals for this project is to foster a unique character and sense of place in downtown
Flint, and we agree with Scott that the best way to do this is to encourage local entrepreneurs
to develop their own ideas. Though we feel that there may be a time in the future in which
the presence of chains will be both advantageous and complementary, we have removed the
development of chains from our list of short-term objectives in favor of incubating local businesses.
2) Based on conversations and interviews with other downtown stakeholders, we do expect to find
a demand for retail businesses and more affordable housing. If this happens, LISC and its partners
should be prepared to start a conversation with Uptown Developments about moving into a phase
Sustainable Action for Great Environments 81
in which they are ready to develop these uses. However, because they may be reluctant to deviate
from their current plans, we should consider methods of meeting their main condition: critical density.

Project Financing
I also asked Scott to walk me through the development process. From his account, I found
that financing seems to be the greatest concern for Flint’s developers. Uptown always begins
the process by determining the project’s costs and then securing all of the financing before
construction. They also try to identify a strong anchor tenant willing to sign a longer lease (about
ten years), which helps them in acquiring bank loans. Once Uptown has raised enough capital,
construction can begin. Unfortunately, the difficulty for most developers is in raising capital.
Uptown seems to be generally successful in terms of financing—they work hard to secure funds
from agencies and organizations including LISC, the City of Flint, the State of Michigan, the U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Mott Foundation. Recently, they have
been able to take advantage of tax credits for historic, brownfield, and new market developments.
However, Scott attests that many smaller developers and property owners simply cannot find
financing for their projects. He says that the primary reason is that banks are just not lending.

Here are the lessons we took away from this portion of the interview:
1) Financing is perhaps the greatest obstacle for downtown development. When we
begin our discussion of implementation tools for small-business incubation and façade
improvements, we will really need to consider ways of helping owners locate funding
opportunities. Entrepreneurs may need a resource to make this crucial step less daunting.
2) Because one of the biggest problems is the unwillingness of banks to lend in the
current economic climate, I might suggest that LISC and its partners begin a dialogue
to determine the conditions that banks would like potential borrowers to fulfill. We may
82 Sustainable Action for Great Environments
also consider approaching long-time funders like the Mott Foundation for opportunities to
reserve more grant money for private development projects that will benefit downtown.

Building on Existing Strengths


I’d like to close this memo by expressing the most important lesson we learned from the
interview: We are working on something that has already been in motion for a long time. At the
beginning of our conversation, Scott called the downtown corridor of ten years ago a “ghost town,”
echoing the sentiments of several other people we have spoken with so far. Downtown Flint and its
various agencies and organizations have made huge strides already in the past decade. He described
several opportunities and strong foundations for future development, which I will share with you:

1) Flint in the summertime is growing more and more active. The city already hosts two
large annual events in the summer, as well as the Flint Art Fair and Tunes at Noon along the
riverbank. Scott reports that all of these events are well attended, which implies that the area
does have a base of users seeking to take advantage of downtown amenities where they exist.
2) Our team was curious about downtown’s potential for cart- or kiosk-based businesses, and
I learned that Flint had at least two of them last summer (the Flint Crepe Company and a hot
dog stand). This means that there is groundwork for permits for these types of businesses,
which could potentially play a role in bringing more activity and diversity to downtown.
3) Though development faces its share of political stress, overall City Council and the
mayor’s office have been receptive to Uptown Development’s work. Scott attributes this to
the shared vision that the people of Flint have in common for the first time in many years.
Many people are optimistic about Flint’s prospects under the Walling administration,
and even though the City continues to lose revenue (or perhaps because of this),
we should be emphasizing all downtown partnerships, especially those with the City.
Sustainable Action for Great Environments 83
When I asked Scott what actions he believes would realize our vision of a vibrant,
active, and diverse downtown, he said, “We need to keep doing what we’ve been
doing.” Specifically, he meant developing downtown’s open spaces and creating high-
quality, exciting housing. We need to find ways to fuel the passion for redevelopment
that already exists within the community, and encourage those with similar missions.

84 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


Appendix D
Implementation Tools
Downtown Parking Plan

Introduction
SAGE consulting reccomends implementing a constructive planning approach to parking that’s
consistent with the goal of enhanced downtown connectivity. The underlying principles behind
this objective are 1) to steer motorists to the locations best suited to parking, 2) to make the City’s
existing parking infrastructure more profitable, and 3) to encourage policies that reduce the total
parking footprint while promoting density and redevelopment.
The Future Role of the DDA
Downtown parking is currently managed under the auspices of the statutorily enabled Downtown
Development Authority (DDA). To implement a comprehensive parking plan, Flint should seek
first the cooperation of the DDA. If DDA rejects the plan, substantial reforms of downtown
parking will require amendments to Flint’s zoning ordinance to restore some measure of control
to the City. This is, however, as opportune a moment as there has ever been for the City to
constrict the powers of the DDA. The DDA is currently operating with an interim director, and the
terms of its board members have expired. Furthermore, the recent failure of the DDA to service
its first debt payment on its newly constructed Rutherford parking deck required the City to draw
from its general improvement fun to “bail-out” the DDA. The parking garage snafu thus weakens
the credibility DDA as effective managers of parking and as stewards of Flint. The situation is so
bad that one City Council member recently proposed that the City contemplate selling the new
garage to a private contractor, presumably absorbing a huge loss.
The Future of the Rutherford Garage
Rather than selling the foundering new garage, the City should instead adopt a comprehensive
parking plan that redirects parking demand from its surface lots to the higher-intensity parking
infrastructure. The new garage should be seen as an asset--not a liability--toward creating a
Sustainable Action for Great Environments 85
vibrant downtown. Doug Kelbaugh writes that contemporary downtowns cannot exist without
parking garages, which accommodate the car while minimizing its footprint. In contrast to the
recent experience in Flint, parking garages can also be very profitable ventures. There are
quarrels between the City and the DDA over who’s to blame for the staggering revenue shortfall
of the new parking deck, but it’s clear that a critical factor was a function of the demand for
parking being drastically less than the DDA anticipated. In simple terms, this is because the
existing supply is vastly too great, and the comprehensive parking plan should aim to reduce the
supply, targeting the least spatially efficient parking sites first.
The Future of the Flat Lot
Parking in Flint is plentiful and cheap. This is as obvious from the aerial views of Flint’s vast
half-occupied downtown surface lots as it is on the ground. The “flat lot,” a surface parking lot
occupying a full City block along Saginaw Street in the core of downtown, is the most egregious
example of low-intensity parking disrupting the urban qualities we hope to foster in downtown.
Sue Peters described the presence of the “flat lot” as both a bane of urban density and a
reminder of earlier failures to redevelop Flint.
SAGE Consulting recommends the immediate closure of the “flat lot” to automobile parking, and
feasibility study regarding the reuse of the other surface lots downtown. The “flat lot,” despite
its convenience to parkers, would be barricaded at its access points. In lieu of plans to develop
the “flat lot,” the City should invite temporary uses to occupy the site. Doing so will prevent a
reversion of the site to parking and contribute to downtown vibrancy. One such temporary use
that should be encouraged is the food cart, a business model that appeared to thrive downtown
before it was disallowed by the City. Food carts must in turn be enabled by a zoning ordinance,
and the City Council should rethink its prior aversion to the business type. Portland, Oregon—a
paragon of downtown vibrancy—has enabled cart businesses to occupy its former flat lots.
These cart businesses are flourishing—they number in the hundreds—and the cart model has
86 Sustainable Action for Great Environments
become a de facto incubator of upstart brick-and-mortar business around the City.
The Future of Curb Parking
To offset the loss of parking revenue caused by the closure of the “flat lot,” the City should
restore metered parking to Saginaw Street. Flint’s City Council has also recently discussed
installing parking meters for its presently unmetered curb spaces, an action that would likely
require an amendment to the zoning ordinance to wrest parking authority from the DDA. The
City has approximately 100 of its formerly active meters in storage, but at least 300 curb spaces
to account for. The City hasn’t had meters downtown for three years because of theft and
vandalism. Michael Freeman, the former director of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation
(LISC) in Flint, informed us that, “the old meters were plastic. You could literally hit them with
your shoe, and the money would pour out.” Rather than selectively reinstating these shoddy
devices, new “pay-and-display” meters should be installed throughout downtown. The economist
Donald Shoup argues that these meters are more profitable and easier to maintain in the long-run
than mechanical meters. Shoup contends that even though a City will endure a short-term loss
from general fund to finance the installment of the new technology—the common rationale for
resisting the change—it would be sound fiscal policy for many cities to do so if demand for space
is sufficiently high. The “pay-and-display” meters currently being used in Ann Arbor, Michigan do
not have the vulnerability to vandalism that Flint’s former meters had, and the new meters allow
for the use pricing policy,of credit cards, which are replacing cash as means of exchange.
In addition to replacing the parking revenues lost due to the closure of the “flat lot,” much of the
displaced parking can be replaced through orienting curb parking spaces diagonally rather than
parallel to the road curb. Charging an appropriate price for curb parking ensures its availability
and increases turnover. the policy of charging the right price for curb parking is friendly to
downtown business, and it can be a reliable source of revenue to the city as well.
Conclusion
Sustainable Action for Great Environments 87
According to the Code of the City of Flint, prospective developers are not required to provide
off-street parking in the D-4 Metropolitan business district, which includes much of downtown.
This policy allows the developer to use his or her judgment as to how best to provide for parking.
The policy also means that new developments in downtown Flint will increase densities and not
merely displace low-intensity parking.
The case should also be made to the City Council—whose members are concerned about
revenue loss and any depletion of the City’s general fund—that steering the demand for parking
to the City’s underused garages, restoring metered parking on Saginaw, and re-pricing of the
City’s parking supply will more than offset the loss in the long run. Furthermore, temporarily
using the “flat lot” as a public space and cart business incubator has the potential to enhance
downtown vibrancy while making a valuable social contribution in Flint.

1 Longley, Kristen. “City of Flint targeting loophole on downtown parking tickets,” in The Flint
Journal. Feb. 4, 2010.
2 Longley, Kristen. “City of Flint tax dollars could be on the hook for payment on $10M downtown
parking deck loan,” in The Flint Journal. Jan. 17, 2010.
3 Longley, Kristen. “Parking meters could be returning to downtown Flint streets,” in The Flint
Journal. Jan. 20, 2010.
4 Shoup, Donald C (2005). The High Cost of Free Parking. APA Press: Washington, DC. p. 171,
529.
5 City of Flint, Michigan Municipal Code § 50-139. SCHEDULE OF REQUIRED OFF-STREET
PARKING SPACES.
6 Kelbaugh, Douglas S (2002). Repairing the American Metropolis: Common Place Revisited.
University of Washington Press: Seattle, WA. p 151.

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Implementation of Tax Incentives to Spur Economic Development in Downtown Flint

This memo discusses the implementation of tax incentives to spur economic development in down-
town Flint. Using the current Tax-Free Renaissance Zone Designation in Flint, an analysis of the
costs and feasibility of the current designation is conducted to determine appropriateness of con-
tinued implementation. This memo concludes with specific recommendations for modified imple-
mentation through the development of an evaluation plan, implementation of a measureable tool
to determine loss of tax benefits over time, phasing out of tax benefits at a slower rate , securing
of alternative funding sources for Long-Term Business Stability, and pursuing renaissance zone
designation extension of all properties.
Tax Free Development Zone - Designated in 1997, the Flint Renaissance Zone now consists of
7 districts and includes 55.1 acres in downtown Flint (see table 2 on page 2). A renaissance zone
is designated by the state per Public Act 376 of 1996, allows for the creation of tax-exempt zones,
and is designed to encourage growth in Michigan communities experiencing economic dis-
tress.
Benefits to Eligible Businesses and Residents
1) State Taxes Waived- Personal income tax, single business tax, and tax state education.
2) Local Taxes Waived - Local income tax, real property tax on operating mills, and personal
property tax on operating mills.
3) Grants and loans for site development needed to support projects that create private
sector jobs.
Intended Goals of the Designation
1) Attract new private investment in the commercial, industrial, and residential sectors of the Flint
economy
2) Provide job opportunities
Sustainable Action for Great Environments 89
3) Rebuild Flint’s economic base and generate funds to replace worn out infrastructure.
4) Serve as a catalyst to foster economic opportunities and growth in neighborhoods suffering from
disinvestment.
5) Enable Flint to compete globally for new business opportunities.
Eligibility for Tax Exemptions
Any business or resident that is presently occupying or moving to a renaissance zone may
be eligible to receive tax benefits if they are not delinquent on taxes and the property is in compli-
Table 1 - Flint Renaissance Zone Tax Exemptions
ance with state and local building requirements. The Michigan Economic Development Corpora-
tion and legislative body of the exiting community must approve a business with 25 or more full time In August of 2008 a resoluation was approved

employees wishing to relocate to Flint’s Renaissance Zone from another community. granting a 15 year extension on Flint’s

Feasability of Implementation - Staffing, Financial, + Politial Costs Renaissance Zone until 2023 for 3 newly

Implementation of the renaissance zone designation requires costs related to staffing, financial, redeveloped properties on Saginaw Avenue.

and political capital. In determining the feasibility of continued implementation, these costs must (Wade Trim, the 500 block, and the Rowe bldg).
be taken into consideration
Staffing Costs
Administrative tasks related to the promotion of the tax incentive to draw business’ to downtown
Flint.
Tracking and collecting of necessary data from businesses and individuals within the zone.
Developing and implementing an evaluation of the Flint downtown district renaissance zone in
meeting its goals.
Staff time of all organizations and agencies responsible for aspects of implementation. For Ex-
ample Time spent determining business and resident eligibility by the Michigan Economic Develop-
ment Corporation, Flint City Council, & City Treasurer
Financial Costs
Potential tax-base loss from businesses that would have the means to exist regardless of the des-
90 Sustainable Action for Great Environments
ignation.
Political Costs
As the programs is already existing within the community, political costs would relate to modifying
and extending the designation. Political strife may occur with other communities if businesses and
residents who are paying into the tax base become frustrated that those in the renaissance zone
are not.
Appropriateness of Continued Implementation
During the 1990’s economic activity in downtown Flint was at a standstill, attracting few visitors and
offering few amenities. In the last 10-15 years, Flint has seen an increase in residential occupation,
new restaurants, and new opportunity for activity downtown. Blackstones, Brown Sugar, Lunch
Studio, and Wise Guys Pizza have all started up since renaissance zone designation. Yet, with
designation set to expire in 2015, success of the designation must be analyzed to determine
the appropriateness of continued implementation.
Determining the success of increased economic development in the downtown district of Flint, due
to its designation as a renaissance zone, requires an understanding of how business growth,
job opportunity, and downtown activity have changed since the start of the program. Few, if
any, evaluation tools appear to be in place to determine whether the renaissance zone program is
meeting its goals. If an implementation extension is considered, an evaluation plan should
be developed.
Additional Information Needed for Evaluation
1) # of Business’ downtown annually starting in 1997. This data should track type of business, size,
# of employees, and # of patrons.
2) Survey of business owners to find out what impact the renaissance zone has had on drawing
them to the area and/or maintaining business downtown.
3) Annual Report of financial tax loss to determine availability of future tax base.
Sustainable Action for Great Environments 91
4) Report on openings and closings of business’ starting in 1997
5) # and type of job opportunities created and lost since 1997
Long-Term Business Sustainability
In 2015 most business properties will no longer receive tax exemptions in downtown Flint, with
the exception of 3 properties set to expire in 2023. Currently in place is a system in which, within
only 3 years, tax exemptions drop from 100% to o% (see table 1 on page 1). Based upon time,
the measurement is arbitrary, and not based upon economic reality of the business or district. If
an Implementation extension is considered, a measureable tool for tax increases should be
enacted, such as # of occupied buildings, increase in downtown foot traffic, or % annual increased Table 2 - Flint Renaissance Zone: Downtown - Office
- Retail Subzone
revenue. Phasing out of tax benefits at a slower rate, such as a 10% increase each year, should
be considered to allow for business’ to develop long-range sustainability plans. Additionally, pur-
suing designation extensions of all properties in the downtown district of Flint, to allign with
the 2008 extensions of three properties to 2023, would encourage long term sustainability.
In 10 years since the downtown district was designated a renaissance zone, a considerable amount
of new business’ have appeared within the downtown corridor. Yet downtown Flint still faces many
challenges including unoccupied buildings, lack of user and business diversity, lack of pedestrian
foot traffic, and little connectiviy with surrounding neighborhoods. Business’ that have opened
during the zone designation will still need considerable support in long term sustainability. Once
tax benefits have been completely phased out, maintenance of business stability will require
additional funding. Alternative sources of funding such as Tax Increment Financing or Historic
Preservation Tax Credits should be secured.
Recommendations for Continued Implementation
This program is deemed feasible, with new economic development and long term sustainability of
existing business’ possible through a modified version of renaissance zone designation. Utiliz-
ing the following recomendations, a modified version of the Renaissance Zone designation of the
92 Sustainable Action for Great Environments
downtown district of Flint, Michigan is recommended for continued implementation.
1) Develop a measureable tool for loss of tax benefits over time.
2) Phase out tax benefits at a slower rate to allow for business’ to determine long-range sustain-
ability plans.
3) Secure alternative funding sources for Street Improvements and Long-Term Business Stability
Maintenance.
4) Pursue a designation extension of all properties in the downtown district of Flint to allign with the
2008 extensions of three properties to 2023.
5) Develop an Evaluation Plan to determine current and historic success’ and failures of the Down-
town Distrit of Flint in meeting the goals of the Renaissance Zone Designation.
Discussion of Feasibility with Local Initiatives Support Corporation
Utilizing the information presented in this memorandum, it is recommended that SAGE Consulting
approach LISC with requests for additional information needed to pursue the development of an
evaluation plan and recommendations for continued implementation of the downtown district of
Flint as a designated renaissance zone.

Resources Consulted

City of Flint Department of Community and Economic Development. Renaissance Zone. Flint, Michigan

City of Flint Michigan. (2008). City Council Meeting Agenda For August 11,2008 - Final. Flint, Michigan

Flint Journal. (2008, July 12). Flint to lose renaissance zones; taxes looming for residents, business owners.

MICHIGAN RENAISSANCE ZONE ACT Act 376 of 1996

Michigan Renaissance Zones Website. http://ref.michigan.org/medc/services/sitedevelopment/renzone/

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 93


Appendix E
Survey distributed at Neighborhood Action Sessions
This survey is part of a University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, graduate
student project to develop a revitalization plan for downtown Flint. For the purposes of our questions, “downtown” refers
to Saginaw Street between 5th Avenue and Court Street. All answers are confidential and greatly appreciated!
The first five questions ask how well downtown Flint currently meets the following needs. For each of the fol-
lowing statements, please circle a number on the scale of 1 to 5, where “1” means that you strongly disagree with the
statement and “5” means that you strongly agree.

1. Downtown Flint provides a diversity of dining options.


1 2 3 4 5
Strongly disagree Strongly agree

2. Downtown Flint provides affordable dining options.


1 2 3 4 5
Strongly disagree Strongly agree

3. Downtown Flint fulfills my entertainment needs.


1 2 3 4 5
Strongly disagree Strongly agree

4. There is a diversity of housing options in downtown Flint.


1 2 3 4 5
Strongly disagree Strongly agree

5. There are affordable housing options in downtown Flint.


1 2 3 4 5
Strongly disagree Strongly agree

6. How often do you come downtown? (Circle one)


Every day More than once a week More than once a month Almost never

7. What do you do when you come downtown?

94 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


8. What is your favorite thing about downtown Flint?

9. Is there anything about downtown Flint that you would change? If so, what?

10. Do you feel safe when you are downtown?


Yes No

11. Do you have any ideas for making downtown Flint more vibrant? If so, please share one!

12. Which age group best describes you? (Circle one)


18-22 23-33 34-44 45-55 56-65 65 or older

13. Do you currently rent or own your home? (Choose one)


Rent Own
14. How many people live in your household?

15. What is the major intersection closest to your home?

16. Are you currently involved in the Flint community—for example, do you volunteer downtown
or are you a member of a neighborhood association? (Circle one)
No Yes (please describe): ______________________________________

17. May we contact you for more information?


Yes No
If so, please share your name and an e-mail address or phone number:
Name: _____________________________________
E-mail or Phone: _____________________________

***We promise to keep your contact information confidential, and will only use it to clarify your
answers to this survey or to schedule any future interviews.***
Thank you for completing our survey! We truly appreciate your time and input.

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 95


Appendix F
Public Input Results
Downtown Neighborhood Action Sessions

DOWNTOWN VISION
The residents of Downtown envision a dense, active, 24-hour Downtown where people can live,
shop, work, and play in a clean, safe, and beautiful environment that both engages this diverse
community and sets the standard for sustainable, regenerative urbanism.

IDENTIFIED ASSETS + OPPORTUNITIES


Events
Back to the Bricks - brings in commerce + good publicity
Greater Flint Arts Council – art walk, events, rental space
University of Michigan-Flint Campus – more community events, expand degree offerings
Parks + Recreation
Riverbank Park - create a central park in Flint, outdoors activities
Flint River Trail - extend trail through downtown
Memorial Park - gatherings + community events
University Pavilion - ice skating
Transportation
MTA Bus Station – extend hours, add routes, provide better service
Housing
Genesee Towers – provide low income rentals
Land Bank - reorganize + offer more homeownership
Economic Development + Downtown Business
New Business - develop all spaces except planned green areas
Saginaw Street Flat Lot – build 6 story mall + shopping center downtown
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Lunch Studio – extend hours
Hoffmans’ Deco Deli – extend hours
Mike’s Triple Grille – expand
Soyla’s – extend hours
Blackstone’s - great for gatherings + community events
501 Bar + Grille - great for gatherings + community events
Raspberries Rhythm Café - great for gatherings + community events
University Students – attract + retain young talent

IDENTIFIED GOALS
Housing
More owner-occupied housing
Increased clean, safe, and affordable rental housing
More control over shape and future of downtown housing district
Public Safety
Less confrontational pedestrian traffic + ease of access to stores
Family Friendly
Feel Safe walking at night
Infrastructure
Create a green infrastructure
Pedestrian Friendly
Attractive to High Tech Industries
More Short Term Parking
Economic Development
Residents have access to goods + services downtown
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Attract businesses from outside the city
Decrease Barriers to viable businesses
Open more diverse businesses and make attractive to entrepreneurs
A downtown that encourages interaction between young people + residents

TOP 15 DOWNTOWN ACTION PRIORITIES


1. Have police take more of a zero tolerance approach for small offenses
2. Enforce Codes on Rental Units and in the Historic District
3. Re-zone to let downtown Restaurants have eating outside
4. Invest in Genesee County Media Center
5. Reuse Oak School
6. Build Grand Traverse Trail
7. Distribute NSP Funds to the Landbank for tax and mortgage
8. Develop the Flat Lot on Saginaw Street
9. Keep Downtown 24/7
10. Create a more Diverse building population downtown
11. Create Angle Parking on Saginaw Street
12. Hold Ethnic Festivals + Food Festivals at Riverbank Park
13. Provide Wireless Internet from Downtown to Kettering University
14. Make more streets 2-way streets
15. Install Public Restrooms at Riverbank Park

Additional Action Items


Zoning
Enforce Zoning
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Overhaul City Zoning Codes
Parking + Transportation
Create underground parking at the Flat Lot on Saginaw
Reduce Parking requirements for businesses
DO NOT create angle parking on Saginaw Street
Enforce Calming of Traffic
Multimodal Connectivty
Make downtown more pedestrian + bicycle friendly
Install Sidewalk on Grand Traverse Connection
Beautify side streets
Parks + Recreation
Have kayaking to River
Improve Riverbank Park
Install a sound system, electricity, and rain cover on stage at Riverbank Park
Remove berms for visibility at Riverbank Park
Restore Downtown Rink
Expand Riverbank Park to Kettering University
More programming at Riverbank Park
Display public art at Riverbank Park
Fill the Canals full of water at Riverbank Park
Keep Riverbank Park mowed + maintained
Install Outdoor Benches for Chess + other spontaneous recreational opportunities at the
Flat Lot
Invest in and keep Grand Fountain running
Make Riverbank Park more visible and safe
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Grow Ivy over concrete to soften the Image of Riverbank Park
Move the playground at Riverbank Park for easier access
Environmental Stewardship
Replace Hamilton Dam
Create Innovative Storm Water Management
Safety + Maintenance
Increase foot patrol + resident crime watch
Install Citizen access Security Cameras
Let people know about U of M and MCC Police Forces
Create a mechanism for Police Accountability
Replace Broken Streetlights quicker
Install dumpsters + recycling bins
Consolidate trash service in the 400 block of Buckham Alley
Install more LED lighting downtown
Economic Development + Downtown Business
Hold flea markets at the Flat Lot on Saginaw on Weekends
Allow Food Carts to sell food outside
Obtain the Google Fiber Optic Network
Increase Density downtown
Focus on locally owned businesses
Provide more information to support small business startup downtown
Events
Hold a Polka Festival at the Flat Lot on Saginaw
Hold concerts + other events at the Flat Lot on Saginaw
Hold Student Focused Events at Riverbank Park
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Hold all season events with inter-focus
Community Engagement + Placemaking
Hold Summer Youth Clean Up Projects
Implement a Downtown Placemaking Project
Housing
Create a central location for downtown housing options
Create more housing options
Create a Senior Citizen Apartment
Complete Manhattan Place

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 101


References
Plans
Baton Rouge, Louisiana Downtown Wayfinding Plan (Sasaki)
Flint Cultural Center Master Plan (Sasaki)
Flint River Strategy (Sasaki)
Flint Uptown Reinvestment Strategy (Sasaki)
Illuminating a Path to the River (Rowe)
A Placemaking Strategy for Flint’s Farmers Market (Project for Public Spaces)
Genesee County Regional Trail Plan (Genesee County Metropolitan Planning Commission)
University of Michigan-Flint Campus Master Plan (Sasaki)
Wayfinding Analysis and Recommendations Document for Ann Arbor , Michigan (Corbin Design)

Internet research
Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority Website
City of Flint Website
Flint Area Convention and Tourism Bureau Website
Genesee County Historical Society Website
Genesee County Land Band Website
Kettering University Website
Michigan State Housing Authority Website
Metro Green Streets: Innovative solutions for stormwater and stream crossings Website
Mott Community College Website
University of Michigan-Flint Website
Uptown Reinvestmant Corporation Website

Bibliography
Shoup, Donald. The High Cost of Free Parking. APA Press: Washington DC, 2005.

102 Sustainable Action for Great Environments


Interviews
Alycia Cobb
Angela Fortino
Barb Spaulding-Westcott, Flint Downtown Small Business Association
Chris Everson, Flint Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
Christina Kelly, Genesee County Land Bank
Dave Johnson, Consultant
David White, Flint Downtown Development Authority
Erin Caudell, Ruth Mott Foundation
Joel Rash
Katie Teeple
Michael Freeman, Center for Community Progress
Mitch Socia
Scott Whipple, Uptown Developments LLC
Sue Peters, Flint Local Initiatives Support Corporation
Tami O’Neill Harchick, Garibella Salon

Sustainable Action for Great Environments 103


Image References
Cover Page Pictures taken by Sage Consulting
Page 3 www.flickr.com/photos/sarahrazak/3660767839/in/set-72157601394252223/
Page 4 Illustration by Sage Consulting
Page 9 www.flickr.com/photos/ebrow/2771729291/in/set-72157606791764639/
Page 13 www.flickr.com/photos/flintpubliclibrary/2713303845/
Page 14 Illustration by Sage Consulting
Page 15 Photograph and Illustration by Sage Consulting
Page 16 Photograph and Illustration by Sage Consulting
Page 18 Illustration by Sage Consulting
Page 21 http://www.flickr.com/photos/flintriverbankpark/3773944103/
Page 22 Google earth pro aerial image of riverbank park
Page 24 http://www.flickr.com/photos/umflintoutreach/2677802680/ Illustration by Sage Consulting
Page 26 Illustration by Sage Consulting
Page 28 www.flashalertnewswire.net/images/news/2010-03/1072/Kids_planting.jpg
Page 29 Illustration by Sage Consulting
Page 32 Photograph and Illustration by Sage Consulting
Page 36 Photograph and Illustration by Sage Consulting
Page 37 www.flickr.com/photos/swapstudio/3845710460/in/set-72157621986343561/
Page 39 www.flickr.com/photos/loudouncountyva/4078332488/
Page 34 people turning in applications → http://blog.cleveland.com/business/2009/04/large_job-fairmarch.jpg
Page 43 http://puremichiganphotoclub.com/files/2009/07/3-14.JPG
Page 45 www.flickr.com/photos/ifmuth/3816796776/
Page 47 www.flickr.com/photos/umflintoutreach/2879459642/
Page 49 www.flickr.com/photos/expomuseum/67838755/
Page 50 www.flickr.com/photos/redirections/3629565113/in/set-72157619791224856/
Page 51 Illustration by Sage Consulting
Page 54 www.urbanreviewstl.com/?p=9449
Page 58 www.flickr.com/photos/umflintoutreach/2948778051/

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