Brownell-Holmes neighborhood resident Robert Logan turned unkempt lots in his neighborhood into an unofficial community gathering space. Civic Park resident Linn Aikins adopted the neighborhood’s “Hidden Park” to make sure that it continued to be a community asset. Flint residents have turned vacant land into urban farms, flower farms, and started nonprofits to help people make improvements to their front yards.
When it comes to taking pride in their neighborhoods, Flint residents have a history of being creative, industrious, and collaborative with their neighbors. And now, thanks to $1 million in grants from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, they’ll have an influx of resources to support a variety of initiatives aimed at strengthening Flint’s neighborhoods. Funds will go toward demolishing blighted or burned structures, neighborhood beautification projects, and home improvement grants or loans for repairs.
“Some streets and blocks are really nice, and some struggle or are empty, so I hope it (the grants) helps with that,” said Chad Schlosser, vice president of the Mott Park Neighborhood Association. “No one likes to see a bunch of houses being torn down, but when it’s necessary, there’s cool and unique ways (for neighborhoods) to use the space.”
This summer, more than 600 residents voted on 70 potential projects identified by The Foundation based on ideas that had been solicited from residents. The tallied votes and average suggested dollar amounts for each proposal resulted in eight projects being selected:
Demolish vacant houses that are beyond repair. 235 votes | $150,553
Hire young people to assist with neighborhood cleanups and beautification. 215 votes | $109,860
Offer a home improvement loan/grant fund for home repairs and upgrades. 197 votes | $161,878
Take down properties that have been burned. 193 votes | $139,378
Demolish homes listed on the City’s Property Portal that are designated as needing demolition but currently no funds are available. 184 votes | $158,098
Offer a home repair program for seniors who want to stay in their homes but are unable to do minor repairs themselves. 160 votes | $121,406
Place dumpsters throughout the city during designated times of the year (e.g., spring cleaning and fall winterizing). 156 votes | $82,147
Build upon the City’s Blight Elimination Task Force. 146 votes | $139,966
“While we regularly talk with Flint residents, this process allowed us to hear from more people regarding their immediate priorities for neighborhoods,” said Ridgway White, president and CEO of the Mott Foundation, in a news release. “The residents have spoken, and we’re eager to get money into the neighborhoods based on what they said was important to them.”
The Mott Foundation will work with local organizations to help implement the eight projects. Updates on their Focus on Flint initiative are available through this signup form. A separate $220,000 grant to the city of Flint will help strengthen the city's blight elimination efforts.
“We have hauled more than 1 million pounds of blight out of Flint neighborhoods so far, and we are just getting started,” said Mayor Sheldon Neeley in a statement. “This generous donation from the Mott Foundation will allow us to make even more of an impact. Through our work to fight blight, we are cleaning up our neighborhoods and restoring community pride more and more every day,”
Residents can report neighborhood eyesores to Flint’s Blight Elimination and Neighborhood Improvement Office by calling (810) 237-2090, emailing [email protected], or online. The office also can provide additional support for neighborhood cleanups, including providing a dumpster and cleanup equipment.
Schlosser, who has lived in Flint for 10 years, has seen firsthand in his neighborhood the impact that creatively reusing spaces and regularly doing neighborhood cleanups has. The former Mott Park Golf Course was repurposed into the Mott Park Recreation Area. It now includes a kayak launch, disc golf course, and nature area with trails.
“Mott Park is a hidden gem,” he said. “Having so much green space and shared space is a unique asset. It also creates opportunities for neighbors to get to know each other.”
The neighborhood association is also one of several Flint neighborhood associations that organizes cleanup days, which not only keep the community clean, they allow neighbors to connect.
“The cleanups help you meet neighbors and learn the different needs neighbors have,” Schlosser said. “I met an elderly neighbor during a cleanup, and now I know where her house is, what needs she has, and I can check in on her. They’re (cleanups) a good way to get a snapshot of the people in the neighborhood.”