Downtown Flint is a great place to live, work and play. But like most places, the pandemic slowed activity over the past two years. Businesses opened last year, but there wasn’t the same level of activity. This was due in part, to people working remote, hybrid schedules or the talent shortage.
Now, as spring ushers in, there’s more activity. More businesses have opened and brought their employees back to the office. More people are coming out for lunch and dinner, shopping, or heading to the theatre to see a show.
Downtown Flint has been a major focus for redevelopment because a vibrant, engaging downtown is an important part of our local economy. Investment in downtown Flint creates jobs, increases property values and attracts tourists, all of which have economic benefits.
Despite the unpredictability caused by the pandemic, Uptown Reinvestment Corporation (URC) has continued working to revitalize downtown Flint, including broadening its development strategy to expand beyond the central downtown area. The goal is to protect current investments and continue with projects both north and south on Saginaw Street.
In addition to Genesee Health System’s $23 million project that will house all their children’s programs, some of the work outside of central downtown is taking place near Kettering University. URC purchased land around the university. Much of it was blighted, and team worked to get it cleaned up for housing. In addition, URC is redeveloping the former Servall Appliance Parts building and adjacent properties into the new headquarters for the Flint River Watershed Coalition and its Kayak Flint rental program.
As for living and lodging in downtown Flint, demand for residential properties continued to be strong. And despite the disruptions presented by COVID, all are at full capacity.
The Hilton Garden Inn, which opened at the height of the pandemic has made great strides, but it needs more guests. However, I am optimistic that as more people feel safe traveling for business and leisure, there will be more activity at the property.
Investing in and maintaining the areas and institutions that make a community special, contributes to a sense of place and neighborhood identity, which helps retain existing residents and visitors, and attract new residents and businesses.
The more attractive the area becomes the more area residents and visitors from outside Genesee County will come to downtown for a night out, lodging, business or banking, creating greater economic impact.
If you haven’t been to downtown Flint, consider this your invitation. There’s something for everyone. In fact, two key attractions in the Flint Cultural Center – adjacent to downtown – are scheduled to open after multimillion-dollar renovations. The Flint Public Library is scheduled to reopen in May; and Sloan Museum of Discovery is scheduled to reopen in July. Also, watch for Kettering’s new Learning Commons to open this summer. Don’t miss out!