Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Flint Fantasy: Genesee Towers Reborn

The unofficial rallying cry for Genesee Towers is probably "Tear It Down!" In a city that seems to love leveling old buildings, no structure has generated more wrecking ball lust than the two stacked boxes marring the view of the Mott Foundation Building. But instead of eliminating Flint's tallest building, what if we tried to improve it?

An architecture competition to repurpose the tallest building in Flint, Michigan yielded original concepts and raised questions about downtown development for the restructuring industrial town.

The building is a 19-story former bank tower with eight parking levels, an open-air service deck, and ten floors of offices. It fell into disrepair in the 90s: the previous mayor, a car dealer, ordered it condemned and, he hoped, demolished. After years in court, Flint homeowners were soaked last year with an additional average tax of $130 for acquisition of the building and legal fees. Previously Genesee Towers was disliked and considered an eyesore. Afterward it was bitterly hated.

This past September, the 40-member-strong AIA-Flint launched a competition to save the structurally sound 1968 high-rise and program it for future development. The results, announced April 8th, generated lots of local interest. “It showed people in Flint that maybe there is something that can be done with this building rather than just tearing it down,” said John Gazall of Gazall, Lewis Architects, who organized the competition and displayed the boards in his glass-walled office next door.


  1. You'd think that place would've been our arsonist's crowning achievement by now.

  2. You think the Mott Foundation is going to let their building go up in smoke along with Genesee Towers? No chance.

  3. I wonder who approved the zoning on putting Genesee Towers next to the Mott Foundation Building. Most towns spread their tall buildings around.

    Another big mistake were those stone aggregate pilings. You had to figure that whatvever held the stones together would eventually give out.

    Somebody wanted to build a 24 story building around Grand Traverse and Second Street back in the 1960s or 1970s. Anyone remember the details?

  4. This needs to be converted to a jail. Reportedly, Prosecutor David Leyton's son came up with a fully rendered architectural drawing for this scenario, but it was rejected. Wonder why.

  5. Me and my husband and a very good friend of ours has found your wrecking ball that you guys could never find!!!


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