Sparking Potential: Big ideas and bold investments propel Flint forward

Artists recently gathered at the former site of Flint Farmers’ Market to discuss using the space as a creative corridor. Photo: Paul Engstrom
Artists recently gathered at the former site of Flint Farmers’ Market to discuss using the space as a creative corridor.

Jackie Berg, Founder & Publisher, TheHUB Flint

Flint sparks with potential. It has an enviable kind of “can do” spirit that just cannot be manufactured. It was born here. At its center is a remarkable group of resilient citizens who never ever give up.

It’s that kind of community spirit that buoys the interest and investment of Flint-based organizations like the C.S. Mott Foundation, Communities First, Inc., the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, Crim Fitness Foundation, and the Hagerman Foundation, among others, and what drives it forward, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Mott’s major role in relocating the Flint Farmers’ Market from its former location on East Boulevard to its new home on First Street in the downtown business district represented a significant investment and undertaking. Two years ago the community was divided about the effectiveness of the move, which was deemed “risky” by some.

Many would like to see the site become an arts incubator, including Glenn and Essence Wilson

Today, the Mott-supported move is delivering dividends and drawing applause.

Parking and safety, two primary issues cited by the most vocal opponents of the relocation, are now seemingly non-issues. Annual market traffic has increased from about 250,000 at the East Boulevard site to almost 600,000 and 20 new vendors have helped double the number of those employed at Flint Farmers’ businesses, manager Karianne Martus tells TheHUB.

“Additionally, the market has been the site of more than 500 different kinds of events, ranging from cooking demos and classes to baby and bridal showers, community fundraisers, and even weddings and wedding receptions,” Martus says.

Access was also an issue, but developers made sure the MTA bus system supported a direct line to the market. Passengers further benefit from new services like “Ride to Wellness,” MTA’s program that gives families access to medical facilities, including Hurley Children’s Center, located at Flint Farmers’ Market. A new bus route from the McClaren Flint hospital neighborhood is also planned, says MTA’s Charlene Kowalski.

Today, the downtown location is boasting more repeat traffic, which is critical to long-term business growth, and has driven demand from new vendors vying for space at the bustling market.

Flint Farmers’ Market former home on East Boulevard might soon be Flint’s next success story. Led by Communities First, Inc., a neighborhood development organization, a meeting of Flint’s creative citizens was held last month to discuss forming an artists’ market at the site. Husband and wife Glenn and Essence Wilson solicited feedback from those who attended the “place-making” session, asking what the artists present would like to see at the vacant space. More meetings and plans will be announced as the arts community builds on the discussion.

This kind of investment and activity is worthy of interest and support and is representative of Flint, a community that continues to move forward.



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