Flint, MI—With no other bidders coming forward in a sheriff’s auction on May 10, 2023, downtown Flint’s Paterson Building is set to return to former owner Thomas Collison’s care.

The historic office building located at 653 Saginaw St. was condemned in the spring of 2022 after part of its parapet, or roof’s edge, crumbled onto the sidewalk below.

The structure’s condemnation and subsequent foreclosure process has since highlighted Collison’s and tenants’ concerns around communications and promised repairs from Flintstone Investment Group Corp, Flint native and former NBA player Morris Peterson’s company, to which Collison had sold the property on land contract in 2019.

During a May 15 interview, Collison speculated that other interested parties may not have come forward in last week’s auction due to what’s known as a “redemption period.” 

That redemption period allows Flintstone the right to redeem the property from Collison should the company furnish the amount bid at the sheriff’s sale—around $650,000—plus interest and fees, within the next six months.

“At the auction, a Sheriff’s deed is issued to Mr. Collison,” Eric Froats, Collison’s attorney, explained over email, “but the deed does not become operative until the expiration of the redemption period.”

Representatives for Flintstone did not respond to Flint Beat’s request for comment on the auction or the group’s plans regarding the property’s redemption period.

For his part, Collison said he was determined to “move forward” despite the possibility of not retaining ownership of the Paterson Building after or while repairing it.

“You’ve got some tenants still in the building, and you’ve got to preserve the building,” Collison said, adding that he was “embarrassed” by its condition at this point. 

Collison, himself a retired general contractor, purchased the building in 1990, having worked on its maintenance under two former owners.

He said that through his nearly 30 years of ownership he’d come to view many of its tenants as friends and good people.

Collison said he’s now awaiting the deed from the auction, but he’s already started making moves to repair the condemned structure.

“I met with the water department again this morning,” Collison said, noting he’d also begun speaking with current and former tenants. 

“I’ve been in contact with them,” he said. “I expressed to them what we’re going to try and accomplish, and they’re happy we’re willing to help.”

Pamela Price, whose nonprofit organization occupies part of the Paterson Building’s first floor, confirmed she’d indeed heard from Collison and seen him meeting with officials already, too.

She said given the uncertainty around the property’s repair timeline, she’d spent the past year expanding her organization’s reach beyond Flint, and recently obtained her business license in Georgia.

She said while she’s hopeful Collison will be able to bring the Paterson Building back up to code, she doesn’t plan to rest on promises alone this time.

“If something bad happens, I’ll be back in the same position again,” she said, referring to assurances she’d received from Flintstone before the building’s condemnation and foreclosure. “I’m not even going through that again.”

For his part, Collison said he understood there’s a long road ahead to fix the historic property and earn back trust from its current and potential tenants. 

He said he’s willing to push down that path, but at 84 years old, he also wants to be realistic about what that means for him, too.

“I’ll admit I need all the help I can get,” Collison said. 

He said he plans to start seeking out grants and asking for support from downtown stakeholders and the city of Flint, to the extent possible. 

In the meantime, he added, he’ll continue to move forward on the Paterson Building’s necessary repairs to lift it from condemnation. Those repairs, according to city of Flint officials in March 2023, include obtaining fire suppression system approval from the Flint Fire Department and fixing exterior stairs that at last inspection were considered “hazardous” and unfit for use.

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....

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