Flint, MI—While many were focused on election results on Nov. 9, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) was focused on redevelopment efforts at Flint’s Buick City.
That day, MEDC announced an $8.5 million performance-based loan from the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) to The Flint Commerce Center, LLC, an entity of Ashley Capital, the New-York based development group in talks to buy the north Flint property.
“The redevelopment of Buick City is an important win for the Flint community and our state, and signals our commitment to both growing our inventory of industrial sites and creating economic opportunity for our friends and neighbors,” said Quentin L. Messer, Jr., CEO of MEDC and President and Chair of the MSF Board, in a press release on the matter.
The MSF loan adds to $3.25 million in redevelopment funding from the City of Flint’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars, $3.25 million from Genesee County’s ARPA dollars and a $2 million grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The money will go toward making the former General Motors site, “shovel ready” in the words of Ashley Capital’s Senior Vice President Susan Harvey.
“We’ve done lots of brownfield redevelopment, and we’ve never come to a city, a state, a county for grant money. This is the first time we’ve ever needed to do this,” Harvey told Flint City Council on Oct. 19. “And that’s because when GM demolished the buildings, back when they did, they left all the slabs and the foundation and the underground utilities in place.”
Harvey said the cost to take all of that out and get the Buick City site back to what she deemed a “normal brownfield”—which she explained as still-contaminated but otherwise ready to be built upon—is roughly $17 million.
She said that cost was likely “one of the reasons why this site has sat for so long” without being developed.
Buick City was formerly a bustling General Motors worksite hosting thousands of jobs, but it shut down gradually between 1999 to 2010. It then came under the ownership of Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust (RACER) which was formed to manage the site’s environmental remediation and sale. It has sat largely vacant ever since.
However, with the amount of investment now in place to get Buick City redevelopment-ready, local leaders are looking forward to the site’s next chapter.
“I think the story here is that hundreds of millions of dollars are going to be invested on the north side of Flint in a post-industrial site that’s been sitting vacant, for all intents and purposes, this entire decade,” said Tyler Rossmaessler, executive director of the Flint & Genesee Economic Alliance, which has been working with the many local and state level entities involved in the site’s pending sale.
Those hundreds of millions come in the form of Ashley Capital’s promised future development of a potential light-industrial park which is expected to generate a total capital investment of $300 million and eventually house between 2,000 to 3,000 jobs.
But for Rossmaessler, the big news about the development is more about a change in perception for the neighborhood surrounding Buick City.
“We can start thinking about that neighborhood not as a place where GM was, but where people are coming,” he said, adding that the site’s development will bring new jobs, products and tax revenue to the city of Flint.
Ashley Capital has not confirmed that its pending deal to purchase Buick City is final. However, Harvey said that “construction activity will commence soon after” RACER Trust concludes necessary environmental agreements with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.
A spokesperson for RACER told Flint Beat the timeline for those agreements is “somewhat out of our control” but that “there is broad recognition that this is an outstanding opportunity for Flint and some urgency is required to capitalize.”