An early proposed depiction of a portion of the future site of St. John Memorial Park. The project received a $1 million boost from a Michigan Sparks grant, awarded to the city of Flint by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in February 2023. (Photo courtesy St. John Street Historical Committee)

Flint, MI—The City of Flint has received a $1 million grant for the development of the St. John Street Neighborhood Memorial Park on Flint’s north side.

“We’re big time now,” laughed James Wardlow, President of the St. John Street Historical Committee, which has been spearheading the memorial park project. “But truly, that’ll get us moving pretty good. We’re so happy.”

The grant, known as a Michigan Spark grant, was recently awarded by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The funding will support improving trails, repaving over 3.5 miles of the Flint River Trail, building a new playground and parking lot and repairs to seven existing scenic river overlooks, according to City of Flint press release on Feb. 9, 2023.

The funding adds to other grants given to the project over the last year. In fall 2022, the park received $750,000 from the City of Flint itself between the city’s general fund and American Rescue Plan Act dollars.

The memorial park arose from the St. John Street Historical Committee’s vision for a way to remember and honor a past destroyed.

Map of Flint’s St. John neighborhood prior to the construction of Interstate 475. (Courtesy Michigan Department of Transportation)

The original St. John Street neighborhood was largely demolished in the early 1970s to make way for Interstate-475. The demolition effectively displaced many Black and immigrant residents who lived in the neighborhood, and the City now hopes the park will help commemorate what was once “a thriving, racially diverse, self-sustaining community,” according to the press release.

“We have a responsibility to reinvest in communities of color that were harmed through racist urban renewal practices, and we want to make sure we make those communities whole again,” Mayor Sheldon Neeley said. ”The St. John Street neighborhood holds a special place in our hearts and minds, and I’m thankful for this investment by the State of Michigan, especially during Black History Month.”

Wardlow said the historical committee’s next steps involve hiring an engineer to help lay out their park vision. He also said they are awaiting information on what will happen with the Utah Dam—which runs through the park site—as part of the Michigan Department of Transportation’s ongoing, $300 million I-475 reconstruction project.

“It’s going to be a great vehicle for memorializing the St. John Street area,” Wardlow said of the coming park. “A lot of people have forgotten, our history was almost lost, but we’re bringing it back—and that memorial park will stabilize and be a standing monument to the St. John Street area.”

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....

One reply on “City of Flint receives $1 million for development of St. John Street Neighborhood Memorial Park”

  1. How soon before we get the Floral Park Neighborhood Memorial Park, the Southside neighborhood was essentially erased by the 1-475/I-69 interchange? How about on the land formerly occupied by Clark Elementary and across the street from The Golden Leaf?

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