Thursday, March 7, 2013

Downtown Flint Without Genesee Towers

Thanks to Wade Merrill for this Photoshop fantasy of what Flint will look like without the city's tallest (abandoned) Building.


  1. What was in that space before the Genessee Bank building? Any pictures of it coming down?

  2. Seeing the triad of the Flint Journal building, the Mott Foundation building, and the Capitol Theatre is actually quite beautiful, as is the resultant urban scale. Identifying vistas like these which result from keeping and rehabilitating the best of the old, and getting rid of the banal, mostly abandoned building fabric that is just taking up space in between, then infilling with urban micro-parks and plazas, (at least temporarily until more density makes economic sense), all in a way that conceptually mimics the early twentieth century "Garden City" concept of urban design, could be a very attractive, smart, and cost efficient way to transition a town with "too little population to fill too many buildings" into a smaller scaled, pleasant feeling place, that just might attract some of that population back.

  3. I think it looks even more desolate without Genesee Towers. I see parking lots, and not very impressive buildings.

    I had a relative who worked at the Mott Foundation Building. While they were building Genesee Towers, he told us stories about how determined they were to be the tallest building, and that the building materials were shoddy. The bold prediction was made before the building was complete that the Mott Foundation Building would stand long after Genesee Towers was gone. That is not made up. It is fact.

    However, I think every effort should be made to rebuild and reinforce Genesee Towers, and find a good use for it. I don't think demolishing it would be good for the Mott Building. I suspect that it would weaken the ground around it and debris would fall on it, like the World Trade Center caused damage to other buildings.

    It is also not good for Flint's image, or what is left of it. I don't understand people who want to just give up. Detroit never will give up, and never will Cleveland, Toledo, Akron, Dayton, Youngstown, Allentown, Gary, Fort Wayne, and others.

  4. I typically tilt toward preservation, but in this case I see no architectural, aesthetic or financial reason to save this building. It's a cheap-o knockoff of the alienating International Style that detracts from Flint's best building. It would cost more cash to fix it up and maintain it for years (decades? forever?) until there might be businesses to fill it than it would to tear it down. It helps that I have no emotional or nostalgic attachment to it. I've only been inside once, and I remember thinking it was an ugly building when I was a little kid roaming around downtown.

    But when it goes down, it should be a park or plaza of some sort, preferably one that wraps around to second street and connects to the plaza area where the old Vogue store used to reside. That would provide a gathering place that would showcase the Mott Foundation Building and the Capitol, along with the newer building at the corner of Saginaw and 2nd.

    But my fear is that this would become yet another parking lot. Let's hope not.

  5. The two towers seen on the Mott Foundation Building still stand. They were originally used to suspend a hammock antenna, a very common radio transmitting antenna at that time, from which WFDF broadcast from about 1930 to 1941. The studios were on the 16th floor at that time. Old postcards of the Mott Foundation Building show the suspended antenna, which is enhanced as it would otherwise be difficult to see.

    Although WFDF can still be heard fairly well in Flint, it's transmitting location was moved from Burton, where it had been from 1941-2006, to Carleton in Monroe County, increasing its broadcast power from 5000 watts to 50000 watts, the maximum allowed in the US. The facility is considered to be a Farmington Hills station, and broadcasts satellite fed Radio Disney, with very little local programming from anywhere in Michigan, let alone Flint.


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