Downtown Flint construction projects are on the path to revitalize the city

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From The Flint Journal


FLINT, Michigan — Nick Singelis had every reason to pack up and walk away.


He ran into structural problems and delays trying to restore the 1890-built former Classic Tailor Building, 641 S. Saginaw St., and will spend more than $1 million on the redevelopment project, more than double his original estimate.


“A lot of people thought I should have just knocked the building down and started over, but I wanted to keep the building,” he said. “I wanted to save the building.”


Singelis and others are forging ahead on revitalizing downtown Flint. Drive up and down South Saginaw Street and there’s a lot to look at these days.


Once Singelis is done with the Classic Tailor Building in May (it’ll house a Biggby’s Coffee franchise and law offices), he plans to start building a $2.3 million, 10,000-square-foot building in a lot north of that building to house retail or commercial space and two-story condos.


“I’m going to build a four-story building on the vacant lot,” said Singelis, who works in real estate. “I’m also looking at acquiring other properties on the same block and I’m working on putting a parking structure there, an underground structure.”


Just down Saginaw Street, at the southwest corner of First Street, a brick facade and large windows now are visible at the $2-million Community Foundation Building, which combined two buildings.


Construction also has resumed on the Rowe Building on the west side of the 500 block of South Saginaw after a partial structural collapse in August halted construction.


“We hope to get the project back on track,” said Ridgway White, a project manager for Uptown Developments, a real estate development group that is spearheading and investing in several downtown projects.


White said he thinks the Rowe Building project, which is combining three historic structures into one, will be completed sometime this year.


Richard Mark, vice president and chief operating officer for Rowe Inc., said the company is anxiously waiting to bring some 85 to 90 employees from three Flint area locations into the new downtown location.


An artist’s rendering of the renovated building proposed for the site of the old Classic Taylor building at 641 S. Saginaw St. in downtown Flint.
Rowe Inc. will occupy two of the floors in the building and the first floor could be home to a restaurant. Eight loft apartments will occupy the top floor, White said.



Kathi Horton, president of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, said it hopes to move 16 employees into a new 6,000-square-foot space on the second floor of the Community Foundation Building in May.



Developers hope to bring in a restaurant/retailer for the first floor of the building and the top floor will be two residential lofts, White said.



“We really do believe downtown Flint is near the tipping point and can hardly wait till we move in, Rowe moves in, Wade Trim moves in and the dorm gets (up and running),” she said.



The first of six dormitories planned at the University of Michigan-Flint is nearing completion.



The four-story, 310-student housing project at First Street and Chavez Boulevard opens in the fall.



The Wade Trim project on the east 500 block of South Saginaw St. is set to be complete in June.
An architectural rendering of the Wade Trim building.



WNEM (Channel 5) will occupy space on the ground floor, with Wade Trim, a civil engineering firm, taking residence on the second floor. Four lofts will be available to rent on the top floor, White said.



“Rowe made all this possible and we wouldn’t be where we are today (without Rowe),” White said. “We’re very excited about the revitalization of downtown.”



In all, Uptown Developments has invested about $30 million in seven projects downtown, said Scott Whipple, development and project manager for the real estate development company.



Finished projects include First Street Lofts and the Brown Sugar Cafe Building. Uptown Developments is looking for restaurants for the old Blackstone’s and Copa buildings nearby.



And for all the new business and redevelopment, there’s a planned 380-space parking ramp at Kearsley Street, Beach Street and Buckham Alley.

The Flint Downtown Development Authority board recently selected a design for the four-deck ramp, said Richard King Jr., consultant to the Flint DDA.


The cost estimate for the design chosen is $7.5 million, according to DDA meeting minutes, but King said the estimate is tentative.
Ryan Garza | The Flint Journal
Iron worker Bart Knoll, of Steel Erectors, Inc. uses a torch to cut a support for a stair case in a stair tower of the Wade Trim building Monday during construction.
Construction could start in July and it’s expected to take about nine months to complete, King said.


Total parking ramp costs — including buying the vacant lot from Citizens Bank, improving the 500-space parking structure near the Riverfront Character Inn and buying a new digital sign for the corner of Kearsley and Saginaw streets — must be within $10 million in bonds that will finance the project, said James Rutherford, DDA director.


Several other downtown projects, including a Family Dollar store at the former Windmill Place, an antiques center and deli in Carriage Town and grocery store at King and Third avenues, also are inching closer to wrapping up work to open their doors.


Judy Christenson, program director for the Flint Neighborhood Improvement and Preservation Project, said Flint NIPP is in the process of selecting a contractor for Witherbee’s Market and hopes to have work completed for a mid-summer opening.


The 6,000-square-foot store will include a deli and produce as well as staple goods and will strengthen the neighborhood, Christenson said.


Flint NIPP, a nonprofit organization, will lease the space to partners who will manage and run the store. Christenson said she expects the market to have 15 employees.


“We’ve always known we needed an inner-city grocery store,” she said. “It’s just being able to put that kind of thing together.”


The Flint Journal / Stuart Bauer
The student housing facility on the UM-Flint campus shortly after construction started in November.


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