If you live in the city you might have noticed some positive changes. More Flint businesses are setting up shop downtown, home values are rising and neighborhoods are buzzing with new life.
Even national perception of the city is changing: Flint was recently named one of U.S. News and World Report’s “125 Best Places to Live,” ranked 115. The publication, described how the city and has transformed.
“The community also promotes and fosters the arts,” states the report. “And, with several higher-education institutions in the area, Flint is becoming an active college town. Students come from around the world to attend college in Flint.”
Locally, Flint real estate professionals, neighborhood advocates and residents are also reporting positive signs.
“Now is a good time to invest,” says realtor Nykole Pfaff.
Several parts of the city, specifically near the universities, attract young professionals, she says. Many houses are sold before they go on the market.
Flint’s housing values are on the upswing and infrastructure improvements from lighting to sidewalks are contributing to neighborhood appeal.
In two years as a real estate agent Pfaff has seen increases in property ownership. She says the outskirts of Flint have received less attention than more central neighborhoods, but she expects the rest of the city to win its share.
Brian Glowiak, CEO of Metro Community Development (MCD), shares Pfaff’s optimism about Flint’s direction. He says there has been a notable upward tick in housing stock over the past two years, largely due to affordability, with median home prices a little less than $35,000. Three-quarters of the homes have two or three bedrooms, making the purchases attractive for many, he says.
“Good news needs to make it out of Flint,” says Glowiak.
While more neighborhoods are ready to add residents, many potential buyers need help as they prepare to become successful homeowners. MCD offers support toward helping residents keep their homes once they buy them.
Kettering University is also contributing to revitalization, since it founded the University Avenue Corridor Coalition. The community outreach program has helped rehab houses, clean up the neighborhood, and make the area more livable. The coalition recently received a $1 million Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program grant from thec to help clean up the residential land surrounding Kettering.
To bring more people into the area the university also launched an Employee Home Purchase and Renovation Assistance Program. It provides eligible employees with a $15,000 forgivable loan for purchasing and occupying a home in one of three designated neighborhoods near campus. A $5,000 forgivable loan will be available to eligible employees who already reside full-time within those neighborhoods, to assist them in making exterior improvements to their properties.
Meanwhile, through Genesee County Habitat for Humanity programs more than 500 Flint residents participated in clean-ups that resulted in the removal of over 70,000 pounds of debris. Genesee Habitat has also sponsored home repairs, neighborhood meetings, workshops and pavilion builds.
In addition, its FlintBrand program lets grassroots organizations, block clubs, and crime-watch groups apply for up to $10,000 in support to help implement projects that create visible, lasting change in the community. The “Brand” in FlintBrand stands for Building Resident Action by Neighborhood Design.
As part of the program, Genesee County Habitat for Humanity staff works alongside the community groups receiving FlintBrand support. Its 2019 projects include:
- Eastside Franklin Park Neighborhood Association
- Canniff Cloverlawn Wamington Wisner Block Club
- Ubuntu Civic Park Group
- Grand Traverse District Neighborhood Association
- Carriage Town Historic Neighborhood Association
- Our Savior Lutheran Church
- Friends of Hasselbring Park
- Rollingwood Blight Neighborhood Association
- Broadway Boulevard | Franklin Ave Corridor
- Central Park Neighborhood Association
- Foss Ave. Block Club
- Fleming Park
- Howard’s Helping Hands
- Brennan Park
But revitalizing neighborhoods and rehabbing homes aren’t the only projects that help invigorate the city. Many buildings, like Calvin Coolidge Elementary School, which closed in 2011, are finding new purposes. The old school is being renovated into Coolidge Park Apartments and a new, four-story mixed-use building. The $16.5 million renovation will include 54 apartments with 45 mixed-income affordable apartments and nine market-rate units. The new four-story building will have 9,600 square feet of commercial space and 9,000 square feet of community space on the first floor, and residential space on the upper floors. The property was purchased by local nonprofit Communities First, Inc. in 2015 and is nearing completion.
Similarly, construction has begun at 310 E. Third St. to convert the demolished YMCA building into The Marketplace apartments. The building will have 92 units with 48 designated as affordable housing.
Another new development will be the $16.9 million Clark Commons project, consisting of 11 buildings on six blocks in the area of North Saginaw Street. There will be 62 mixed-income units and a variety of dwellings available, including a three-story apartment complex, townhomes and single-family, attached homes. Clark Commons is being developed by Norstar Development in partnership with the Flint Housing Commission, funded with $15 million in tax credits awarded by Michigan State Housing Development Authority.
Other projects aim to improve the quality of life in Flint and attract and retain residents. For example, the $37 million Flint Riverfront Restoration project, which removed the hazardous Hamilton Dam, is designed to create green spaces, spur economic development, and increase recreational opportunities. It also repurposes the historic brownfield Chevy in the Hole site.
From the collapse of auto manufacturing to the water crisis Flint has had plenty of bad news. Today those headlines are changing and the city is more often being defined by its growth. There is welcome news indeed.