Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011

The City Hall of Our Dreams



Given Flint's economic situation, major renovations of city-owned buildings for purely aesthetic reasons are about as likely as the Lions winning the Super Bowl. Five times in a row. But it's nice to pretend that there might come a time when Flint can upgrade its architectural image, similar to the way the Flint branch of the American Institute of Architects held a design contest for the Genesee Towers of our dreams. Why don't we start with the
Bauhaus style City Hall (above).


The old City Hall (above) seemed to fit better with Flint's boom-town mentality at the time. It's got a bombastic, aspirational look to it that indicates the city was going places. It's a building that says "Hey, we're pretty badass!"


Architectural Record
recently featured a renovation job in Minneapolis that shows what could be done to update Flint's current city government complex. Julie Snow Architects was hired to transform the headquarters of KNOCK, a branding, advertising and design firm. The old building (above) looks a lot like a smaller version of Flint's City Hall.
"In its former incarnation, KNOCK’s headquarters, located in a downtrodden precinct of Minneapolis, was a building remarkable only for being unremarkable. Millions of its cousins — aging, uninspired commercial boxes — dot the country’s secondary roads from coast to coast," writes Beth Broome. "Down-on-their-luck structures, they mostly go unnoticed and there is no love lost when they are felled."
Sound familiar?


Here's the renovated version. It looks like a sleek little factory, but with the humanizing effect of wood. Flint used to be a lumber town before turning to carriages and cars, so this aesthetic would have some obvious historical references, unlike the current City Hall. Here's the problem, the KNOCK headquarters was only 9,750 sq. ft., much smaller than Flint's collection of government buildings. The renovation cost $1.3 million...way out of Flint's price range. But it's nice to dream.

The Don

Anyone know exactly what former Flint Mayor Don Williamson went to prison for back in his younger days? Better yet, can you provide a link to a story or document detailing the case? Thanks.

Dixie Highway Question

A quick question for all you highway buffs out there...Was Saginaw Street downtown considered part of the Dixie Highway system?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

More On Civic Park School Vandalism

Blake Thorne of The Flint Journal reports on the urban miners stripping Civic Park School:

Authorities have been called to the school at 1402 W. Dayton St. seven times between June 7 and 21, said Stephen Todd, Flint’s 911 administrator.

Some of the calls were for reports of suspicious people, two were for malicious destruction of property and at least two callers also requested the fire department, Todd said.

Flint School District officials are aware of the problem, and workers will secure the openings “as soon as possible,” said district spokesman Robert Campbell.

“It’s an old, tired game of keep-away,” Campbell said. “You secure the structure, you do what you can do to keep people out of it and the vandals do what they can to get in.

“It’s extremely frustrating and disappointing,” he said.

Go here to see the earlier Flint Expatriates post on the vandalism, including photos.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Another Flint Icon in San Francisco


I was walking near my office in San Francisco today when I spotted this 1960 Buick Electra 225 convertible. It's owned by Ted Gigler, who stores it in his auto body shop. He bought it about 35 years ago for $900.

All original interior, although Ted did swap the worn driver's seat with the passenger seat.

Pretty much the original engine and components except for the battery pulled out of a Mercedes.


Proof of the Flint pedigree. "This car finished with Magic-Mirror acrylic lacquer. Body by Fisher."


Ted's other car...a Pontiac GTO.

Hard to miss these taillights.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Flint as a Decorative Element



My friend M.G. spotted this pillow today at the Jonathan Adler decor shop on Fillmore Street in San Francisco. The price? $98. The designer started with a series of needlepoint pillows of exotic upscale locales like St. Tropez and Monte Carlo, then followed up with a series featuring places that are, well, exotic for different reasons — Flint, Fresno, and Scranton. I suppose you could find this offensive in some way, but as someone who regularly vacations in Flint, it makes sense to me. I just wish they were a little cheaper.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Flint Photos: Journalists at Play


Beata Mostafavi and Kristen Longley of The Flint Journal test out the hula hoops at the corner of Saginaw and 2nd on a sunny day.

Civic Park School in Decline with Photos


Some disturbing, yet predictable, news from a friend living in Civic Park:
I've heard several scanner calls, with no cars available to take, about people hauling metal out of the school. This morning, we drove around the building. All the 1st floor windows on the West (Humboldt) side & most of the 1st floor windows at the back of the building are gone. They've been torn out to get the metal window frames. You can see right inside the building. A lot of the 2nd & 3rd floor windows are broken.
Photos coming soon.

UPDATE: Here are the photos...






Photos and cutlines courtesy of Dave Starr.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bars and Buicks in San Francisco



I've always liked the Jay'n Bee Club, a great little corner bar in San Francisco, now I like it even more after finding out that co-owner Mike Perry (above) owns a 1961 Buick LeSabre made in Flint.








What are the odds of two G.M. convertibles on the same block in San Francisco? A red Corvette in front of Mike's LeSabre.

Who Remembers Schramm Bakery?

The grandson of Charles F. Schramm Sr., the founder of Schramm Bakery, which was located on 5th Avenue, is looking for any memories or information readers might have related to the bakery, including details on its fate after his grandfather died in 1967.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Flint Postcards: Saginaw Street at Night

Pointless Photos


Who's interested in some totally random photos capturing Flint, places other than Flint, abandoned couches, curling iron techniques and self indulgent self portraits?

And isn't it amazing the things you can dream up to do when you're on deadline and looking for something — anything! — to do besides write?

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.

Flint Photos: Buick Specials Roll Down the Line in 1949

Reflecting on Flint

Flint resident T.I. Jordan reflects on the past, present and future of the city:
To know Flint is to love and hate it at the same time. I live on the East Side with my family, and my husband grew up on the North End. The thoughts of shrinking the city yes is sad and heartbreaking but at the same time can be a helpful in keeping Flint alive and not just on life support.

Many of the homes in my husband's old neighborhood are in varying stages of ruin and are now over run by crime.

With the low tax base and now new millages going into effect for those of us that still live and work in Flint, the hope to keep the basic needs of the City ( fire departments, police) are still stretched thin. A smaller city takes some of the burden off of civic departments. Can I say that this will fix all of Flint's problems? No. Do I think that it is a good start into getting us back on tract? Yes.

People who are not from Flint or its surrounding areas only see what our crime rates are,run down homes and now closed factories that had at one point been jobs to thousands of people. What they do not see are the many good things that Flint has to offer, as in the Cultural Center, Stepping Stone Falls, the Flint Farmers Market, and a city that is full of a rich history.

So again to live in Flint you love it for what it was, you hate it for what it is now, and you can have hope that it will overcome all of the challenges that come down the path, and have the faith that Flint will become stronger no matter the outcome.