Saturday, January 30, 2010

Flint Real Estate: Four for One

1042 Downey Avenue

Ebay is not a comforting place if you're looking for hopeful signs in the Flint-area real estate market. Here are four houses listed as a group. The opening bid is $4,000 and there are currently no takers. Taxes are approximately $1,375 per year for all four houses combined

1468 Tremont Avenue

UPDATE: Here's a group of eight houses up for auction by the same eBay seller.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Flint Artifacts: The Catcher in the Rye Circulation Card from Powers High School Library

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Toyota Quality Control

Hmmm, perhaps now is the time for G.M. to grab back some of its market share.

Ken Thomas of the Associated Press reports:
Toyota suspended U.S. sales of some of its most popular vehicles — including the best-selling car in America, the Camry — to fix sticking gas pedals that could make the cars accelerate without warning.

In another blow to the world's No. 1 automaker, Toyota Motor Corp. said Tuesday it would halt some production at six assembly plants beginning the week of Feb. 1 "to assess and coordinate activities."

Here We Go Again...Saab Lives!

Nelson Schwartz of The New York Times reports:
"General Motors said Tuesday it had reached an agreement to sell its struggling Saab Automobile arm to the small Dutch luxury carmaker Spyker Cars, saving Saab from what seemed like certain extinction after earlier bids had collapsed."

Flint Photos: Cronin Downs Soap Box Derby Track

Photo courtesy of Jar With Most.

Photo courtesy of The DerbyTech Track Guide.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Elusive Super Bowl

Matt Millen may have done more than any other man in history to ensure that the Lions remain one of the few NFL teams to never play on Super Bowl Sunday.

With the New Orleans Saints victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Sunday's NFC championship game, the Detroit Lions are now one of just four teams that has never made it to a Super Bowl.
  • Cleveland Browns (Won 4 of 6 NFL championship appearances and went to 3 AFC championships in 1986, 1987 and 1989)
  • Houston Texans (Expansion team still looking for its first playoff game)
  • Jacksonville Jaguars (Expansion team that went to 2 AFC Championships in 1996 and 1999)
  • Detroit Lions (Won 4 NFL championships and went to the NFC Championship in 1991)

Flint Photos: 1501 Detroit Street

This is a shot my mom recently unearthed of the building my grandparents owned at 1501 Detroit Street in 1945. It was few blocks from Welch Blvd. on what is now Martin Luther King Ave.

The building was just a few blocks north of the intersection in this postcard.

View Larger Map

This is the general area today on Google Maps.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Carriage Town and the Urban Alternatives House

The Urban Alternatives House (left) sits next to a partially restored structure on Garland Street. (Photo courtesy of Gordon Young)

An abandoned home at 519 Garland Street in Carriage Town is being transformed into the Urban Alternatives House with funding from the Genesee County Land Bank and UM-Flint.

It will become a classroom space for university students, the community and visiting school children, according to the project website. The house will maximize energy efficiency and introduce sustainable, innovative ways to manage energy and water use. In the lot adjacent to the house a vegetable garden will be planted to encourage more active and healthy living and provide a demonstration site for urban agriculture.

"Special programs geared for K-12 students will be presented at the UAH," said UM-Flint Associate Professor Richard Hill-Rowley. "The focus of these programs will be on the science aspects of energy use and conservation. A premise behind these programs is the need to introduce ideas about climate change to these students and use the site to explore ideas of sustainability, walkable communities, and locally grown food."

Flint Portraits: J Raud

Flint-born Jeff Raudebaugh is a 27-year-old musician who performs as J Raud and now lives in Washington, D.C. He’s got a song in the Canadian independent film At Home By Myself…With You, which recently premiered at the Vancouver film festival
"My wife Sam and I moved from Michigan in August 2007 because the job outlook was not promising in our fields. A friend once told me that real musicians have day jobs. I’m not sure if I completely agree with that statement, but since I am also currently working as a trust banker, it does make me feel better. I have independently produced and released four albums of music. I have been performing live music since I was 15 years old. My wife, who is a landscape architect, and I have good memories of Michigan. We miss family and friends. One thing we have noticed is how much we crave Michigan foods, including Koegel Vienna hot dogs and Halo Burger. We also miss the smell of pine trees “up north”, and the beauty of the Great Lakes."
J Raud’s latest CD — Naked as a Jaybird — is available here.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

AfterCulture: Jerry Herron Captures the "Humiliation of History"

One of Kevin Bauman's 100 Abandoned Houses photographed in Detroit.

I'm devouring
AfterCulture: Detroit and the Humiliation of History by Jerry Herron and finding many disturbing parallels with Flint in the various essays. And although it was published in 1993, it's depressing how many of the ideas and observations in the book still hold true today.
"It’s as if the country needs a Detroit to go uniquely wrong in order to make clearer and simpler — by comparison — the otherwise baffling work of going right. This is the site, or the symbol, that makes consensus once more seem possible for Americans, whom differences of all kinds have driven apart. Outside of war, or some sort of national emergency, it’s hard to imagine anything — especially anything domestic and urban — that people could agree on and get behind, except, perhaps, for the wish to keep 'Detroit' from happening to the place where they live."

Canvassing Flint

Somehow an environmentally friendly canvas tote bag and Flint just don't go together. But maybe this makes sense for an erstwhile college town.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The College Numbers Game

Are Flint's dreams of becoming a college town getting closer to reality?

Beata Mostafavi of The Flint Journal reports:
The University of Michigan-Flint saw a 7.9 percent jump in its undergraduate student population, according to a 2010 winter semester enrollment count released today.

Graduate student numbers spiked 12 percent, with an overall growth of about 8 percent compared to last year. A total of 7,478 students attended — 546 more than a year ago — with 6,261 undergrads and 1,217 graduate students.
As this chart by the Pew Research Center shows, enrollment has been trending up across the country since the early seventies, especially during recessions.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Parking Chronicles: Using Meters to Pay Off Parking Decks

Are parking meters about to make a return to downtown Flint? The move allegedly could help pay off the pricey parking deck that few people seem to use.

Thanks to Earl the Anonymous for passing along this item.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Flint Artifacts: Zimmerman School 9A Prophecy of 1945

Click to enlarge for a good read. Thanks to Flint Expatriate Bill Boles for this artifact.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Flint Photos: E. 2nd Street

The house on E. 2nd St. bet between Stevens and Wallenberg where my grandparents lived when my mom was born in 1930. It appears to be a parking lot now.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Dairy near Dupont and Dayton

View Larger Map

JWilly has a question:

Up to the fifties, there was a dairy on the north side of Dayton Street, east of Dupont. In my recollection, it was a dark brick single-story building, at least for the frontage on Dayton. I think it was either Pure-Seal or Sealtest. I think I recall it having a lunch counter. Anyone have any photos or recollections?
This intersection was one of the most shocking when I was in Flint this summer. It didn't help that there was a power outage and none of the streetlights was working that day.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Flint's Latest Parking Problem

Is downtown Flint's latest parking structure the son of AutoWorld. Columnist Andy Heller thinks so after Kristen Longley of The Flint Journal reported that Flint taxpayers "could be on the hook for payments on $10 million in loans for a downtown parking deck that now sits mostly empty."

"Less than six months after opening the James W. Rutherford Parking Structure, the Downtown Development Authority already is scrounging to make the first payment on the city-authorized bonds for construction of the parking ramp.
"The problem? The DDA expected to bring enough downtown tax revenue this year to cover the $620,000 payment, but instead is bringing in a tiny fraction of that — about $900."

Flint Photos: Knife-Wielding Thugs in Bassett Park

Thankfully, I've completely forgotten the circumstances that led me to be photographed in Bassett Park in 1975 wearing a pink polyester shirt, flexing my chicken-bone arms, and biting a very large knife with my very large teeth. This was during the "Gangs of Flint" era, so it may have been some sort of initiation ritual. Only one thing is certain: I was no longer getting buzz cuts at Johnny's Barber Shop on Lewis Street.

The home of Mr. and Mrs. Fink is on the far left, and the house Dave McDonald eventually bought is on the far right.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Citizens Bank Weather Ball Meets The Wizard of Oz

Guy takes us behind the scenes at Citizens Bank:

"After making a series of utterly horrible life decisions, I found myself working as a security guard in the early 1990s.

"On more than one occasion I was assigned to the venerable old Citizens Bank Building downtown. I worked alone — like 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. or something — and it was fairly creepy. To cut to the chase, it fell to me to change the weather ball. I don't know why, but I'd always kinda figured that the thing was, somehow, automated or a moderately high-tech deal. Actually, a guard climbs some rickety stairs to this funky, dank room (buzzing, loudly, with electrical current because it's right beneath that enormous sign) and there are three huge buttons on the wall — red, blue and yellow. Next to them is a telephone. The protocol is this: you call the National Weather Service, listen to the recording, do your best to interpret it, and hit the button(s). I think there was another button to make it blink 'in agitation...'

"In an odd way it was kind of deflating; it was like finding out that the Wizard of Oz — the man behind the curtain — was just an ordinary schmo like me. In fact, in this case, he was me.

"Final note: On a dare from my former wife, I purposely set the thing completely wrong one night simply to see if the world would grind to a halt.

"Nothing happened."

Citizens Bank Photo: night sky and neon by lonniec61

Friday, January 15, 2010

Don't Bring Me Down

This could be good news or bad news for places like Flint struggling with economic decline and the sadness it engenders. Studies reveal that our happiness is actually influenced by the happiness of those around us.

Our Social Brains, a blog that explores "new brain science and social behaviors" reports:
Our social brains are {happily} vulnerable to the emotional happiness of those around us. Both Harvard and University of California medical researchers working together have just reported (December, 2008) that happiness spreads like a virus through social networks (friends, family, co-workers, teammates, neighbors).

Your happiness can influence (and IS, in turn, influenced by) the happiness of the folks you hang out with. But wait, there’s more! The study showed that your perceptions of being happy not only increase with the happiness of your friends, but also with the friends’ friends’ friends. People you do not know and have never met. A big scholarly “Wow!”

American Idol's General Larry Platt Supports Flint's Baggy Pants Ban

It appears Flint's infamous baggy pants ordinance has a new advocate from American Idol by the name of General Larry Platt.

Home Sweet Home + Bacon

All caption suggestions are welcome on this one.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Former Mayor James Rutherford Dead at 84

Kristen Longley of The Flint Journal reports:
James Rutherford, former Flint mayor, police chief and longtime Flint political icon, has died. He was 84.

Family members said Rutherford, who most recently retired as director of the Flint Downtown Development Authority, died in his sleep this morning at his home in Flint.

A native of the city, Rutherford's career spanned more than six decades during some of the most turbulent social and political eras in Flint's history.

He was Flint's first strong mayor since 1930, and the only Flint mayor to leave the office and then return for a second time, having replaced recalled Mayor Woodrow Stanley in 2002.

Flint Photos: 1980 Whittier Baseball Team

Who can spot the future major leaguer? Thanks to Andrew Gauthier, a Haskell Community Center veteran, for this photo.

Flint Artifacts: Citizens Bank Weather Ball Bank

Thanks to Flint Expatriate Harry Fisher for this fine artifact.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Flint Portraits: Audrey Dismond

The Flint Journal has a profile of Audrey Dismond, a great example of someone trying to make a difference in Flint:

"My company is called Roof Right Construction. I’m a licensed builder and can build a whole house, but we focus on roofing. Roof Right started in 2004. I am blessed with some terrific girls. I have about six working for me now.

"All of my girls come from unfortunate circumstances. They need a helping hand more than others might. I help them learn to roof to code and how to appreciate themselves. They have to love their bodies as well as their minds. They were not put here to smoke a crack pipe or be a punching bag. I call them my girls for a reason. They’re my family. I come from a wonderful family. I believe whole-heartedly in family."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Questi Sono Tempi Duri

You may not realize that Flint Expatriates has a sizable Italian readership, including my friends Max and Carlo. To show them I care, here's a slice of Roger & Me with Italian subtitles.

Riverfront Residence Hall: The Hyatt Regency Finally Discovers Its True Calling

Check out the old Hyatt Regency's new collegiate look. I have to say it seems a lot more appealing than Smith Hall at the University of Missouri (below) where I bunked for a short sentence.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Hardest Job of All

Can someone help out a UM-Flint grad answer the question so many are asking these days...How do I find a job?

Flint Artifacts: McFarlane Realty Co. Pencil

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Flint Artifacts: A.C. Spark Plug Parking Lot Tags

UPDATE: I thought these were just simple parking tags, but anonymous gives us the real story:

Dort Hwy. parking lot tags - A time honored tradition to recognize loyalty, length of service and salary level (and to keep the troops in line). When hiring in, everyone started out in the east lot, off Averill Ave. It was a long, twice daily, walk thru the factory to get to and from your work area on Dort Hwy. The Dort Hwy south lot was a first stop on your way to parking lot gold. It could be attained if you kept your nose clean and advanced in rank just enough to qualify as being one of the established herd. After years of struggle and hardship, the lucky ones finally had enough salary and length of service points to qualify for a north lot pass, right next to the main gate on Dort Hwy. Of course someone had to retire or die, before you could realize your parking dream. The north Dort Hwy parking lot was only superseded by garage parking, under the main office building, which was reserved for the uncoded executives. If and when you earned a north lot pass, you walked with your head just a little higher (and tended to go out for lunch; just to watch that gate go up and down).

Kildee for Governor? Not So Fast

Dave Barber's thoughts — via Facebook — on a possible run for governor by Dan Kildee? Not a chance.
"I love the quote, "I feel strongly obligated to think about this." Obligated to "think" about it? I'm obligated to think about breathing. Dan must be laughing his ass off. He's milking this for all it's worth. His stock continues to go UP. He is NOT going to run for gov. That's wayyyyy too much work. Off to DC for Mr. Kildee. Lunch at the Palm, Larry King Live and five star hotels. I hope he's started his book about shrinking cities. Then he can go back to obligatory THINKING."

Friday, January 8, 2010

Kildee for Governor?

The news that Lt. Gov. John Cherry is dropping out of the race to be Michigan's next governor has increased speculation about Dan Kildee entering the race.

Chris Christoff and Kathleen Gray of the Detroit Free Press report:

"Meanwhile, former Genesee County Treasurer Dan Kildee said he is thinking about the governor's race.

“'Obviously, this is something I’m interested in and very passionate about,' Kildee said. 'I feel strongly obligated to think about this.' 

"Kildee was contemplating a run for governor last year, but said his decision against the run was contingent upon Cherry’s ultimate decision. Now that Cherry is out of the hunt, Kildee may be back in. He just quit his job as treasurer to form a think tank geared toward land use.

“'I’ve gotten a ton of phone calls over the last couple of days,' Kildee said. 'Some of the people who were harder to get a hold of last year are calling me now.'"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Visions of the Weather Ball

Click here for Tom Wirt's video of the Citizens Bank weather ball.

Flint Foreclosures and Federal Funds

More than $223 million in federal money is headed to Flint and other Michigan cities to deal with abandoned property. Greta Guest of The Detroit Free Press reports:
U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan made the announcement today at Detroit’s Butzel Family Center, along with Gov. Jennifer Granholm, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.

The money will be used to acquire thousands of foreclosed, abandoned and blighted properties in targeted areas throughout Michigan, which had the eighth highest foreclosure rate in the nation last year. About 1,500 would be rehabilitated, 2,500 demolished and 4,650 placed in land banks, which erase liens on property to compile land for future development.

Go here so see where the funds will be spent in Flint.

The money arrives at a time when a record number of Genesee County residents are likely to lose their homes to foreclosure.

Ron Fonger of The Flint Journal reports:

Although the majority of property owners who are delinquent in their tax bills at this time of year end up paying before March 31 rather than losing their properties, officials are nervous about this year because of continuing high unemployment and weakness in the local economy.

"That's more properties to maintain," said Doug Weiland, executive director of the county Land Bank. Increasingly, properties lost for back taxes aren't vacant land but are home to run-down houses, increasing the expense of keeping buildings secure until there is money for rehabilitation or demolition.

What's worse, Weiland said there are no signs that this will be the last year with so many potential foreclosures. In Flint alone, there are about 10,000 vacant homes, he said, most of which remain in private hands. "My guess is about 6,000 of those properties have been abandoned, then people stop paying taxes," and the parcels end up in the county's hands, Weiland said.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Legend of Tommy Bell

Flint Expatriates was created to answer weighty questions about bars and lounge singers. But I don't know the answers in this case. Any readers out there who can help?
Guy Merritt said...

I've got a two-pronged question that, I suppose, isn't really as relevant as it should be in this thread. Nonetheless, I thought I'd ask. A long, long time ago I used to go to a bar up on Pierson Road, with my first wife, and I think - unless it's one of those false memory syndrome things - (1) the the place was called Ali-Babas (or Alladin's, maybe - it was about a block east of The Fireside on Pierson), and, (2) that I caught a singer there by the name of Tommy Bell. The guy fronted his own band and was a great singer. Years later I was working, as a musician, at a casino called the Peppermill in Reno, Nevada. Our band alternated sets with Tommy Bell and, well, it was just a real surprise to run into him out there. Found a page on the net, recently, that referred to him as a "Reno Legend" so, it appears, he really found a home out west. Did anyone ever see Tommy Bell, and, was that place called Ali Baba's or the Alladin...?

— Guy Merritt...Still crazy—and still in Flint—after all these years.

Land Bank Job Up for Grabs

Eight candidates are now vying to replace Dan Kildee as county treasurer and chair of the Land Bank. The job pays $82,749.

Ron Fonger of The Flint Journal reports:
A committee of county Chief Probate Judge Jennie E. Barkey, Clerk Michael J. Carr and Prosecutor David Leyton is scheduled to meet Wednesday to decide weather to immediately select a replacement for Kildee or whether to conduct interviews before making their decision.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Winter Scenes

The Welcome to Beautiful Flint blog has a new batch of winter photos.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Signs of the Times

An old M & S Bonanza pop sign on Fleming near Pierson Road. (Photo by Gary Flinn.)

The sign for the long gone 76 Station at Flushing and Chevrolet. (Photo by Gary Flinn.)

Flint Photos: The Block

Or is it The Rock?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Down on the Farm in Motown Courtesy of John Hantz

David Whitford at Fortune writes about one man's vision for a new Detroit:
John Hantz is a wealthy money manager who lives in an older enclave of Detroit where all the houses are grand and not all of them are falling apart. Once a star stockbroker at American Express, he left 13 years ago to found his own firm. Today Hantz Financial Services has 20 offices in Michigan, Ohio, and Georgia, more than 500 employees, and $1.3 billion in assets under management. Hantz thinks farming could do his city a lot of good: restore big chunks of tax-delinquent, resource-draining urban blight to pastoral productivity; provide decent jobs with benefits; supply local markets and restaurants with fresh produce; attract tourists from all over the world; and -- most important of all -- stimulate development around the edges as the local land market tilts from stultifying abundance to something more like scarcity and investors move in. Hantz is willing to commit $30 million to the project. He'll start with a pilot program this spring involving up to 50 acres on Detroit's east side. "Out of the gates," he says, "it'll be the largest urban farm in the world."

Friday, January 1, 2010

Musik for Volvos

Apparently, they do write songs about Volvos, at least the 142. (Should someone contact Campbell-Ewald?) But while this is quite entertaining, it doesn't quite measure up to the classic American car songs. Maybe it's the language barrier.

Campbell-Ewald Advertising: They don't write songs about Volvos

A few classics from Campbell-Ewald Advertising, courtesy of reader and commenter extraordinaire JWilly.