2017-12-07 / Viewpoint

Creating a vibrant, economically strong downtown

The VIEW from here
Tim Herman — Guest columnist

A chief role of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce is to serve as the economic development agency for Flint and all of Genesee County. As such, one of our goals is to work with businesses, foundations and the community to improve the overall attractiveness and livability of our region.

Like other rustbelt cities across the country, Flint has its challenges. But that’s not the end of the story. There’s a great deal of positive momentum that is fueling the revitalization of the Flint region. Take downtown Flint for example. Through strong private-public partnerships, roughly $100 million has been invested in the redevelopment of downtown Flint over the past 10 years; and the revitalization continues today with another $75- $100 million in projects that are in different phases. The area offers:

A thriving business district.

Urban living.

Restaurants, coffee shops, bars and breweries.

A neighborhood that is walkable and bicycle-friendly.

A “college town” vibe.

Co-work space for entrepreneurs

And a destination for art, theater, nightlife and outdoor activities such as festivals, the annual Crim races, social cycling and ice skating. Not to mention, a national-caliber cultural center that includes the second largest art museum in the state.

About three years ago, the Health & Wellness District was completed bringing the “Eds & Meds” strategy to life. This project brought in jobs, and education and medical investments such as the Flint Farmers Market, which has become a great gathering spot. The former Flint Journal building was repurposed to house the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. There’s the Genesys PACE Center for senior care, Hurley’s

Pediatric Clinic, and the Genesys

Downtown Health Center.

Additionally, the downtown area is anchored by outstanding institutions such as Kettering, University of Michigan-Flint, MSU, Mott Community College and Baker College; as such, access to a quality education, research and talent is matched by few communities our size.

The energy around urban living is growing. There are roughly 2,000 downtown Flint units and the market demand is creating the need for more living space. One of the ways that we are addressing this is to build a new mixed income apartment and townhome complex.

If you visit downtown Flint today, you’ll see a range of economic development activity such as the Ferris Wheel, a new co-work space for entrepreneurs. Renovations of the Capitol Theatre are nearly complete and a ribbon-cutting will be held this week. Mott Community College is relocating its culinary institute to downtown Flint. And UM-Flint is expanding its campus footprint into the historic Huntington Bank building and continues renovations on the Murchie Science building to accommodate growth in students majoring in math and the sciences.

These are just a few things that help create a place where people want to live, learn, work and play. I invite you to check it out. Come have dinner, swing by the wine bar, check out an art gallery or just take a walk. In the meantime, we’ll keep the focus on enhancing our community’s assets to improve the overall appeal and livability in the area.

Tim Herman is the CEO of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.

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