Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Durant Hotel's Comeback

For all the bad news coming out of Flint for the last 30 years, it's easy to overlook some of the successes. With that in mind, I present...the Durant Hotel.

Kris Turner of The Flint Journal reports:
The former Durant Hotel is filling up faster than anticipated and its developer is eyeing other downtown buildings for future housing projects.

Since reopening last fall following a nearly $30 million renovation, the Durant’s 93 apartments are already at 75 percent occupancy.

That’s ahead of schedule and vastly exceeded the expectations of Richard Karp, the Lansing-based developer behind the building’s overhaul.

“We didn’t expect to be this far until spring 2011,” he said. “We’re quite pleased with the robust activity.”

Jack Wolbert and Alejandra Arceo flew in from California to get married at the newly restored Durant last summer. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Garza/The Flint Journal)

Given Flint's lack of interest in historic preservation, it's hard to believe the Durant survived, especially when you watch these videos illustrating just how far it had deteriorated.

Let's close with a few shots of the Durant from the days when Flint kids attended etiquette lessons before dining at the hotel.


  1. The old Durant--My God, it looks like the Overlook!

  2. I've got a pal who lives there, and it really is a top-notch establishment. You can sort of *feel* when a building has been "done right," and the Durant has that vibe. Flint can really be proud of it.

  3. I vaguely recall being told as a child that McFarlan Park, the triangular greenspace in front of the Durant, originally had public lavatories in a sort of basement. These were accessed via concrete stairways, and presumably were far enough down that the dirt-depth over them would support the park's flowers, grass and small trees.

    These days it's hard to imagine a time when such an approach to public bathrooms would have been a good idea.

    I'm sure the park has been through multiple incarnations in the intervening decades, but nothing suggestive of such prior features is visible on Google Earth.

    Anyone else have any such recollection, or other knowledge?

  4. Sounds kind of like the underground tunnels below the sidewalk in front of the Milner Arcade, JWilly.

  5. It is amazing that this building held on nobly for thirty seven years, waiting for the right developer, the right business plan, and the right star alignment, without either being torn down or falling down on its own. But you can bet there were plenty of close calls during those years of dormancy.

    I know firsthand of two from the early 80s. The first was a serious proposal by a local developer to convert the old hotel into a jail that would be leased back to the city, (or county?). Thankfully this plan never came to fruition.

    Not long after, financially viable plans were begun to restore the building and convert it to condominiums,but just as the work was about to commence, the developer, a Flint expatriate who had moved back to the area after making his fortune out of state, (and fresh off his redevelopment of the North Bank Center building), was shot and killed by his wife during a domestic dispute. That was that for the Durant, at least for another twenty five years,

    1. I'm glad that isn't the standard outcome for Flint expatriates.

  6. I remember going to the Pick Durant's barber shop as a small child shortly before they closed in the early seventies. The lobby was always an interesting place. If I recall, they still had a doorman up to the bitter end. I visited Flint in February, 2013 and was glad to see the old building looking proud again.


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