The city of Flint, Michigan has a lot of competition for the title of “America’s Most Revitalization-Resistant City”. Gary, Indiana and Camden, New Jersey come to mind. But that hasn’t stopped people in all three cities from trying to rectify the situation.
It wasn’t that long ago that nearby Detroit would have been on that list, but they no longer qualify, with good news emerging almost weekly from that long-beleaguered city.
In 1989, the extent of Flint’s desperation, in the wake of losing some 75,000 General Motors jobs, was made know to the world via Michael Moore‘s hit documentary, Roger & Me. On November 29, 2011, the state of Michigan put Flint under the control of an emergency manager (the second time the city had been in financial emergency, the earlier one being from 2002-2004). Things looked like they couldn’t get much worse. But then, of course, they did.
On April 25, 2014, Flint started taking its drinking water from the Detroit River. The more-acidic river water corroded the ancient local water infrastructure, and folks started complaining about its taste, appearance, and smell. In response, the city put out a press release quoting a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality official as saying “the quality of the water being put out meets all of our drinking water standards, and Flint water is safe to drink“. But it wasn’t, as all of America, and much of the world, now knows.
That much is known. What isn’t commonly known is the good stuff, some of which has been documented here in REVITALIZATION:
The most visible new signs of revitalization are in the city’s downtown. There are coffeehouses and restaurants along Saginaw Street where 10 years ago there were almost none.
General Manager Ken Laatz says business is thriving at his establishment, the Soggy Bottom Bar, where you’ll find good food and good Michigan-brewed beer on tap. Flint has a way of making people fall in love with it, says Laatz.
Elsewhere, philanthropists with ties to the city are in the process restoring the Capitol Theatre to its former glory. The theatre is next to the renovated, century-old Dryden Building. It used to be a cheap place to rent office space; now, says Laatz, you can’t get in.
Of course, there’s much more to community revitalization than commerce. People who run the new, free Cummings Early Childhood Education Center are determined to make the education system better.
“In order to revitalize a community, you have to revitalize its education system,” says School of Education Dean Bob Barnett. “If we want to lift these kids out of poverty, we have to lift whole families up. So we have adult education here, where the parents on site are getting their GED and their high school diploma, while their kids are getting high-quality early childhood care.”