Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Incentivize City Living

Why not bribe, I mean, incentivize people to live in Flint? It's happening in Detroit. CBS Detroit reports:

Blue Cross is offering incentives to their 16,000 employees to buy or rent downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. It’s a seed program to attract more development and more people to the city.

In the five-year, $4 million “Live Downtown” program, first-time home buyers will get a $20,000 forgivable loan. Renters will get a $2,500 first year allowance, and $1,000 the following year. Employees who already own a home in the city will be given up to a $5,000 grant for exterior improvements.

“Everything is market, and if you’ve got bodies and you’ve got volume, it’s gonna attract business, it’s gonna attract retail. You’ve gotta have that density and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Loepp said.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Changing City

Reader GaryG comments on Flint's past, present and future:
I know of a Flint kid who, with a friend, had a Flint Journal paper route for about four years. During the course of his duties, within the three blocks that encompassed his route, and before he was old enough to have a driver’s license, he encountered numerous prostitution and illicit drug solicitations, he survived an attack by a man sky high on whatever, who tried to strangle him, he witnessed a robbery for which he was subpoenaed as a witness, (and for which he had to defend himself on the stand from the defense attorneys when they attempted to pin the crime on him), and he had to deal with four murders, (including the killing of the driver of the truck that had just dropped off his paper bundles). Moreover, not long after he moved on from this after-school job, a group of young kids on their way to school were gunned down in front of a church located on his route, by drug dealers wanting to rid themselves of any potential witnesses to their early morning dealing.

That kid was me, and the time was the mid 1970s. To some readers here, these things may sound like minor distractions compared to what they endure on a daily basis in this town today, but the point is that bad things occur in every city’s ‘bad’ neighborhoods, and have been occurring for a long, long time.

Despite my less than rosy experiences, like Ta-Nehisi Coates, I am one of those that really enjoyed what my hometown had to offer. I came back after college to start my career in Flint, in an attempt to improve things, and to help guide the place into the future, in whatever small way my entry level position could muster. I remain, and have always been, optimistic about how this place could positively evolve, in small steps, with smart strategies, and with careful planning by talented groups of professionals who understand what makes a city work. In essence, Flint is getting close to a ‘blank canvas’ on which it could now start the planning process anew, taking as a viable point of departure, its colleges, its institutions, its infrastructure, and the relatively manageable scale that it has.

The promise I see is in the opportunities that would inevitably arise if cutting-edge urban planners were asked to approach the challenge by designing a carefully thought out master plan, identifying the best resources that remain, and conceiving of ideas to connect them in creative ways. The goal being to raise the odds that over time – perhaps a very long time – the sum of any future redevelopment, investment, and further demolition decisions that are required to fit into that plan, eventually come together to create a uniquely integrated collection of quality urban spaces, that reinforces – and in the case of this town, resurrects - a positive quality of life.

Those without vision need not apply.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Flint Artifacts: AC Liquid Tire Chain

Remember this stuff? Check out the warning label! Not exactly environmentally friendly. How did this toxic concoction work? Thanks for Michael Griffin for this artifact.

Update: Of course there's a video online of someone using a similar product.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Where Are the Readers?

A reader wondered about who's reading Flint Expatriates. Well here's a the top ten list of unique visitors by state, and the top ten cities within michigan, since the blog launched in the fall of 2007:

States:

Michigan 153,486

California 26,686

New York 16,356

Illinois 14,809

Florida 12,066

Georgia 8,890

Massachusetts 8,243

Texas 7,775

Ohio 6,345

North Carolina 5,335


Michigan Cities (Not sure why Google Analytics came up with two Flint entries):

Flint 20,009

Flint 15,716

Grand Blanc 5,238

Linden 4,497

Southfield 4,367

Lansing 2,924

Southfield 2,837

Macomb 2,509

Grand Blanc 2,474

Fenton 2,225

Friday, July 22, 2011

Emotional Rescue

Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor at The Atlantic, is writing some interesting things about gentrification, which happens to be one of the few urban conflicts that's not an issue in Flint. But I thought his ideas still apply to the emotional attachment Flintoids, both past and present, have for their city. He writes:
I grew up in West Baltimore at the height of the Crack Age. I spent more time negotiating violence than I did negotiating my studies. I got jumped by some project kids when I was nine, and until I my senior year I either got jumped or fought every year. But I loved West Baltimore -- so much so that when I went off to college, I was intent on coming back. My old middle school was shut down a couple of years ago, after a student was stabbed to death. The school likely needed to be shut down -- but I was still sad. The point isn't that violence is a good thing. It simply means that every day, normal human beings develop feelings for people and places that go beyond the work of economists, sociologists and self-styled reformers.
He started the topic with Our Technocratic Overlords, then continued with Our Technocratic Overlords, Cont, A Hard Look At Gentrification, A Hard Look At Gentrification Cont. and A Harder Look At Gentrification Cont. They're all worth reading, as are the reader comments.

Flint Photos: Homedale Park?

This mini park, for lack of a better term, was once home to Homedale School, a victim of the Flint arson spree. Gerry Godin, creator of the All Things Buick blog, shot this from the corner of Davison Rd. and Iowa Ave. today.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's Time to Think Small

An anonymous reader responds to the post on nature returning to Buick City:
While we debate the future of this once bustling city, time marches on and deterioration sets in. It will be difficult to create much of anything positive in the midst of so many abandoned and dangerous inner-city properties. Word is out that anything goes in Flint; the police are obviously out numbered and out gunned. I would sure hate to be the last law abiding citizen to leave town.

I would never, ever, ever, allow any of my children/grandchildren to live anywhere close to this kind of chaos, nor would most of this blog's readers. I have no doubt there will be small success stories, but by and large, businesses aren't looking for an abandoned factory in an abandoned crime riddled city, to relocate their workforce to. My thought is; what isn't being regularly used today will rather quickly fall down or burn, speeding the complete absorption of these properties into a somewhat natural condition. The result will be less costly to clean up and maintain by those few who remain and have Flint based livelihoods that are worth the effort. At some point down the road, there will be a reason to build up the city again, with new ideas, new structures and fewer thugs.

For now, Flint citizens should think small. The name of Flint swells my heart with longing for a city that once was, but we should avoid this sentimentality, it doesn't help us do the right thing today.

Flint Artifacts: Buick 1959 Suggestion Winner Lighter

Thanks to Mike Perry for the artifact.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Flint Maps: The Long Lost St. John St. Neighborhood

Click to Enlarge

This is a section of a AAA map from 1966. I found it in a dissertation written by Andrew R. Highsmith, which is an excellent source of information on St. John and the urban renewal project that erased the neighborhood. You can access it here. It's worth reading.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Nature Returns to Buick City


Gerry Godin, the creator of the excellent All Things Buick blog, sent me this photo that he took on July 15 at the old Division Street gate off Hamilton Avenue. It's hard to believe that this spot, once a congested entrance to the massive Buick factory complex, the geographic heart of Flint, is now a place where the deer (and the antelope?) play or, in this case, die.

I've written several posts about the return of wildlife in Michigan as the population declines and parts of Detroit and Flint empty out and return to nature. There was one about red foxes and another about beavers. Carriage Town resident Michael Freeman told me about deer nibbling at the lilac bushes in his side yard, the former site of 3rd Avenue Fish & Chips, when I was visiting Flint a few summers back. It shouldn't be all that surprising given how overgrown and wild parts of Flint are these days. When people leave, nature reasserts itself.


Flint Artifacts: 1974 Jack Frost Tour Certificate

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Flint Photos: Flint Sit-Down Strike Press Photo

Flint Photos: 1941 A.C. Spark Plug Worker

Congratulations Grandpa Kildee

The Mysteries of Flint


I've attempted to stump readers several times with mystery photos and Flint trivia, only to be humiliated when 13 people provide the answer in less than a minute. But I think I'm onto something with this button. Prepare to be humbled by your lack of knowledge about dear old Flint. Who can tell me what the image on the button represents? And, no, it's not a Masonic symbol or a trophy distributed at the CANUSA Games.

Members of the Tambellini family are kindly asked not to participate.

Now that the mystery has been solved, here's a photo of the sculpture at Riverbank Park before the elements ended its stormy and, apparently, unloved tenure as Flint's most prominent example of public art.