Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Downtown Hyatt Becomes a Downtown Dorm

Sally York of The Flint Journal reports that the old Hyatt/Character Inn — an ill-fated redevelopment project rivaled only by Auto World — may finally be put to good use:
"The vacant Riverfront Character Inn is going to be turned into a giant home for Flint's growing number of college students.

"The nonprofit Uptown Reinvestment Corp. bought the 16-story former hotel Friday with plans to transform it into housing for local college students. A $20-million loan from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation is funding the purchase and planned renovations.

Eventually, the building will become home to 550 students and be called Riverfront Residence Hall, said Tim Herman, president of Uptown. It also could include classrooms, a game room, Internet cafe and meeting space in what is being termed a student living and learning center. The exterior of the building also will be updated, as will the heating and air-conditioning systems."
That's right, downtown may once again be filled with inebriated youngsters just like the good ol' days. Not only is this good news for Flint, but it allows me to post one of my favorite Flint-related YouTube videos for the third time.


  1. What an awesome commercial. That 80's hair is so enticing, makes me want to jump in the nearest 2.5 litre Chevy Celebrity Eurosport wagon and head for the Hyatt.

  2. My daughter is vaguely considering attending UM Flint. I believe if I show her this video she will be SOLD.

  3. Anonymous, please don't...I don't want to get blamed for lowering the enrollment. Actually, a high-school senior might find it so bad it's kind of cool.

  4. The Hyatt Regency Dorm?

    Haven't they tried out dorms at UofM already? Didn't they fail? And with college enrollment threatening to fall through the floor due to the collapse of the Sallie Mae loan program, I doubt that anything will happen here.

    At least it's not Detroit. Only one abandoned skyscraper, and they're trying to do something with it (yes, tearing it down is something, just like round is a shape).

  5. Wow, I don't remember that commercial at all. I would think I would, but nope, I don't.

    I wish there had been housing when I went there. I liked U of M Flint, it is a good school in spite of what a lot of people think.

    As for the person who asked if they had tried housing and it failed, no the idea came up in the late 80s early 90s and it never got off of the ground. There is a dorm being built and now the Hyatt apparently is being renovated, so I guess we'll see how it goes. Heck if they keep this up we might even get some sports teams...heheheh.

  6. As velvet points out, I think there was just talk of dorms. There is one dorm now that opened this year and is full.

    At the same time, the college-age population is supposed to peak with next fall's first-year class, then decline. And the economy can't help.

    But...college is getting closer and closer to the high school of the fifties. Just about everyone realizes you have to have a degree these days, so that could keep enrollments healthy. And compared to a private school or an out-of-state public school, UM-Flint is a bargin. So I'm not so pessimistic about this dorm filling up.

    Will it magically transform Flint? No, but it can't hurt.

  7. Next on the agenda, build a skate park in one of those parking lots. Does anyone know, is it still illegal to skateboard in downtown Flint?

  8. Flint is ALWAYS so behind the curve. It wants to be Ann Arbor, but it ain't even close to being Mt. Pleasant yet. Schools in it's league (or thereabouts) like GVSU, WMU, CMU, and EMU, and Ferris expanded years ago. UMF is a commuter school. The university has developed very few programs that draw students from out of the immediate region. Enrollment will expand when more "better than average" departments are developed. Besides, is it wise to expand residential dorms when the economy is tanking? Will student loans be as available as they are now if the poop hits the fan? Finally, I know the city is desperate and they just wanna fill the Hyatt with something, but is it wise to convert such a prime piece of real estate into a dorm? Well... I guess it is better than the crazy evangelicals from the Character Inn.

    Good thing the Hyatt dorm has a parking lot. Most of the kids living there will be driving and with their cars will go many of their dollars.

    Still no skateboarding downtown? Its sooooo mainstream now I'm surprised people even notice anymore. Anyhow, check out these lyrics. Last time "re-developers" tried to clean up downtown (Water St., Windmill Place et al) the punks of Flint let loose with a salvo of pro-skatboarding / anti-lame developer jams. Hopefully some youngster will pen a classic tune lambasting hypocritical greedy bastards like the Uptown / UMF / Hurley / Kettering / Land Bank Axis.

    Sunlight and Shelly doing "You Can't Go Skateboarding In Riverbank Park":
    You can't go skateboarding in Riverbank Park / Trade in your board and be a pimp or a narc / Go get drunk, attend a football game / or do like the cops and drive around and sell cocaine ... everybody's welcome 'cept a board riding punk

    Political Silence" doing "Scum:
    Ban us from Water Street / Try to clean downtown / We are downtown you fools we were here before the crowds / Now we're undesirables we can't skate on your lot / We'll take our money elsewhere and your building can rot / YOU SCUM, SCUM YOU PEOPLE ARE THE SCUM / SOME PEOPLE THINK YOU'RE SAVIORS BUT WE THINK YOU ARE DUMB

  9. Hopefully they get to keep the Character Inn's disturbing taxidermy. The 10 foot tall Grizzly was one of the last things I'd ever expected to see in a holy roller training school.

    Though I didn't end up showing up, their seminar on creationism looked fascinating. The flier featured a toga clad sexy blonde gal, her neck warmer sporting beau... and a brontosaurus!!!

    Am I misremembering or did the Character Inn wackos pay the city $3 million in cash for the Radisson?

  10. Actually, I remember hearing that they tried dorms in the seventies, located near Court Street and I-475. Eventually turned them into senior citizen spaces.

    And in the early eighties, they hoped the expansion of the University into Downtown Flint would lead to a boom in business up and down Harrison Street. One bar survived through the early eighties (forget its name), and I don't think it lasted into the Autoworld era.

    So I do hope things get better there. I can't say I'm too optimistic about it, especially with the recent changes in the economy and the long-term changes in the actual worth of a college degree.

  11. Flint behind the curve? the whole country's going down the crapper, every year it's worse. google up highschool graduation requirements from about 100yrs. ago! my friend, a Dr., could not answer half of the questions, neither could my Wife. And as a Teacher, I'm more than sure that GY has seen His fair share of under educated students land in His classroom. I don't know about religious whackcases at the old hotel, but am glad that U-M has made a move. And they'd be nuts to get rid of the grizzly! it would be more than I could bear...

  12. In the phrase, "The flier featured a toga clad sexy blonde gal, her neck warmer sporting beau..." I cannot for the life of me figure out where the hyphens should go... Help!

  13. bustdup:

    They were able to have such high requirements for High School Graduation one hundred years ago because only the lucky few were able to graduate from High School and/or and go to college. Most folks either started work in their early teens or helped the family farm until they took over their own plat of land and farmed it.

    This obviously meant the students were educated to the point where they felt no need to continue. Since most of them were self-educated and/or educated by their neighbors (or a teacher who would likely marry a local in a couple of years), they learned what they needed to learn well.

    Of course, back then much of what was needed to survive was learned on the job. And many of the "Stupid People" who presently clog up our schools would have known their way around steel, farming tools and horses and made a living elsewhere instead of clogging up the schools and colleges.

  14. Okay, I'm clearly obsessed with this Hyatt commercial. Aside from the hilarious hair-do's and eighties fashion, it's amazing how creepy that music is. I mean would hearing that music ever make you want to go to the place the music is promoting? I'd love to talk to the person who wrote this song for the Hyatt. I imagine some disgruntled musician, distraught that he wasn't the next Bruce Springstein, writing this in an attempt to get fired from his commercial songwriting gig. I'll stop now.

  15. Some good points D. some very valid ones...Putting aside the switch from an agrarian culture to a city-based manufacturing culture had plenty to do with the 'down sizing' of our educational system I would think. The explosion of population, including countless scores of immigrants setting up housekeeping here, the movement away from the rural one roomed, multi-class schoolhouse to the larger more impersonal urban schools(that most of us attended)
    with a larger and larger admin. body added to the problem, didn't it? and out right pandering to special interests have added to the problem. But, this downward spiral gave birth to such ops as the Charter Schools, and Valley in Flint being one of the pioneers. And nothing personal Don, but I take exception with the 'stupid people' spurt. my alma mater has just switched over to teaching only kids who have learning differences with the rest of the population, and for that I give Them Kudos...But, we digress from the topic BIGTIME! this was s'pposed to be about large hair and strange music, eh? Didn't GY used to a hair-do like the guy from Flock of seagulls??? j/k Big Fella...sliante!

  16. With the large student body, faculty and just plain artsy people who will be inhabiting downtown Flint, I believe an art cinema would be a great crowd pleaser. I have attended several in other cities that have filled the main floor space with cosy coffee tables and overstuffed chairs etc. with a side bar for beer and wine etc. Show good foreign films along with indie movies, second-run features and old classics. I believe there is always a desire for this venue and I am convinced it still lives and breathes in Flint. Pat Young

  17. Mrs. Young makes a very good point. It seems that there would be a solid demand for art and foreign films. U of M Flint used to show films like that regularly back in the 80's and there always seemed to be a good crowd.

    I remember losing a loafer there one time during Rocky Horror - which really wouldn't have been a big deal but it was January and I was parked a couple blocks away and was sockless (it was the '80's). If I remember correctly, my father was far more curious as to why I was barefoot in the snow than why I was just getting home at 2am...actually that turned out to be pretty lucky.

  18. Sarah: "The flier featured a
    toga-clad sexy blonde gal, her neck warmer-sporting beau..."

    As far as dorms are concerned, part of the reason the universities in Flint have remained commuter oriented is because of the lack of (safe) housing. The last I heard the current dorms were full and enrollment up, not to mention the fact that people are flocking back to school, as often occurs during a downturn. The fact that three new restaurants - restaurants with potential, that is - are opening may also be a draw. So, I think making dorms out of the Hyatt is the most sensible thing they can do with that place at this point. A hotel just doesn't make sense; Flint is not a tourist attraction or a conference center. Putting more cash into the universities is the way to go.

    And this brings me to Pat Y's point: there are plenty of people living in the Greater Flint area who would be interested in such a cinema - plenty; however, most of them are reluctant to drive downtown whether day or night for fear of getting robbed or their car stolen. Boosting academic life with the requisite restaurants, cafes, decent shops ( NOT dollar stores), etc. could encourage them to change their tune, but it would be financially difficult. The problem with such cinemas is that they cost a bundle to keep them up and running, even in more affluent areas. E. Lansing had a horrible time back in the day with their one and only Odeon. This isn't to say it isn't possible, but a more basic economic infrastructure has to be put in place and proven beforehand.

    And why they don't have a place for skaters is simply beyond me.

  19. The FIA has hosted art house/avant garde/indie films for decades. In fact there are films shown every weekend this month. Admission is dirt cheap. Beautiful theater. Safe area. With limited showings, sometimes the crowds are large and sometimes they're VERY low. I really don't think there is much demand in Flint for this type of stuff.

    I'll admit that FIA doesn't advertise well, but it just seems that if people were interested they would've heard about the FOMA series long ago.

  20. I remember in the late 80's hearing that skateboarding became illegal in downtown because the "gangs" drove the people away. I remember thinking at that time, the people were gone before the skaters arrived.

    There is a small grocery store in downtown Flint... it's a house... I can't recall the name. But it would be nice to see some others open up so those college students can buy some ramen noodles for their dorms without driving somewhere.

    As for cinema, once again, to utilize a park or parking lot... perhaps Flint can start showing films outside during the summer... (maybe they already do, I don't know) projecting them on some old building (if they have any left to project on)... then maybe they'd figure out if there was interest.

    I had heard of some Shakespeare in the park going on in Kearsley Park last summer, and that was drawing crowds.

    The low-budget option is always the best to begin with.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at www.teardownbook.com.