Flint, MI—It’s been roughly half a year since Flint Community Schools (FCS) received bids on its vacant properties, and the proposals are now back before the Board of Education for consideration.
In all, there were 15 bids put forward for eight of the district’s vacant properties, according to documents from Thrun Law Firm, which was hired to support the property offloading process.
“We did receive those bids back in August,” Mackenzie Flynn, an attorney at Thrun, told members of Flint Schools Board of Education on Feb. 15, 2o23. “We haven’t accepted any. We haven’t rejected any either, so we are still holding those proposals.”
In summer 2022, the former Board voted to sell or lease 13 of the district’s 20 vacant properties, based on FCS recommendations. When the bidding process closed in late August, five of those properties ultimately did not receive any bids.
The process also did not include setting a minimum bid amount, Flynn noted, which is something that remains an option for the new Board to consider as it reviews proposals now. Gordon VanWieren, another Thrun attorney, added that the bidding process could also be reopened.
As for the current proposals, Flynn said that “they all were very community-oriented and a lot of them were locals or had come from Flint in some way.”
Bidders’ proposed uses for the properties ranged from new community centers and affordable housing developments to facilities for vocational training.
The highest bidder, Liberty Way Holdings, proposed to purchase the Zimmerman Center School property for $250,000. The lowest bidder, Divine Development Group, was for Washington Elementary School “at no cost in exchange for an annual donation,” per Thrun documents.
Just last week, the Board approved bidding out the latter school’s demolition, but members did not weigh in on the pending bid for Washington during their Feb. 15 discussions.
When asked by Board Secretary Claudia Perkins about proposals to lease the properties, Flynn said none received bids for leasing, only sale. Trustee Laura MacIntyre, who was part of the previous Board, urged her new and remaining colleagues to discuss the potential of leasing the properties long-term.
“I’ve been very clear about our public assets remaining public and not giving away property to the lowest bidder,” MacIntyre said.
VanWieren said the previous Board did discuss at length about long-term leasing, but “it’s much more challenging to convince a potential user to lease a building than to buy one.”
Beyond the district’s currently vacant properties, Board Treasurer Dylan Luna asked Thrun attorneys about the best course of action if the Board considers closing other properties in the future, like the FCS Administration Building.
VanWieren responded that, “in a perfect world,” starting a property’s bidding process as the district anticipates a closure would be the way to go.
“Buildings are more viable and valuable if the use is continued,” he said. “Once you close the building, it’s more challenging to reopen it … The physical structure tends to deteriorate quickly, or more quickly, if you don’t have heat and other utilities on in a building.”
VanWieren told Flint Beat that Thrun will be following up over the next few weeks with the current bidders to obtain additional information, as discussed with the Board. That includes details on their proposed use of the properties, timeline for renovations, as well as their source or ability to fund the renovations.