FLINT, Michigan — Flint’s future is wrapped up in both its past and its present, an inevitability illustrated in the storied streets and homes of the Civic Park neighborhood.
Built by General Motors 100 years ago, it stands as one of the nation’s first planned communities — much of it built assembly line style in less than a year in response to a massive housing shortage borne of the booming manufacturing industry and influx of families looking for a new start.
This northside neighborhood flourished for decades before its struggle with neglect, abandonment, and disinvestment took over in the 1980s. Today, this neighborhood still struggles — but you will also find here a dedicated force committed to building a stronger future.
An Urban Renaissance Center has taken root in a local church. It is home to an active neighborhood association and business district association. The community center is open and active. There is a running group and a public yoga studio.
There are also boarded up houses and Civic Park School, the very center of this planned neighborhood, closed in 2010 and remains a blighted reminder of what was.
Civic Park neighborhood is one of several in Flint where a combination of forces — including the determination of residents, investments from local foundations, and community partners — are working together to push toward recovery. And, it just so happens, this year also marks the Civic Park neighborhood centennial.
There is so much happening here. And, Flintside is committed to sharing those stories of struggle and success, of entrepreneurism and community building, of celebrating the past and moving toward a brighter future.
Flintside is partnering with multiple neighborhood partners to launch a new program called On the Ground in the Civic Park neighborhood. The effort kicks off with six months of intense community journalism in Civic Park, including features on the people and events happening here as well as a look at its roots and its future.
The effort includes weekly storytelling, paid journalism fellowships and training for residents to tell their own stories in their own words, a community newsroom, photography and video. Residents are invited to attend a community meeting at 5 p.m. May 2, 2019, at Joy Tabernacle to learn more about the project and share story ideas.
Flintside reporter Alexandria Brown is taking the lead as project editor for On the Ground in Civic Park. Brown, a graduate of Powers Catholic High School, is a local multimedia freelance writer who has recently returned to Flint after graduating from the University of Rochester in May 2018. She also has been published in Forbes.com and Flint Beat.
“I find this project vital,” said Brown. “I look forward to being a part of something that really gets to the heart of what journalism needs to be now—more interactive, visible, and open to the community it serves.”
Marjory Raymer, Flintside publisher and managing editor, said she hopes the project will be able to expand in the future beyond Civic Park to serve other neighborhoods as well.
Flintside’s parent company, Issue Media Group, brings with it seven years of experience with similar On the Ground projects in other communities. On the Ground first launched in May 2012 as a pilot program in four neighborhoods in Philadelphia and New Jersey. Since then, it has expanded into other IMG markets such as Memphis, Detroit, and Grand Rapids. It also operates in Ypsilanti and multiple other Michigan communities.
The local On the Ground is supported by the Ruth Mott Foundation and the Community Foundation of Greater Flint as well as a Restorative Journalism fellowship from ivoh (Images and Voices of Hope). The Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce serves as the project’s fiscal sponsor.
Related story: Flintside editor named ivoh Restorative Journalism fellow
Flintside also receives funding from a coalition of partners including the Flint and Genesee Chamber of Commerce, Flint Downtown Development Association, Genesee County Parks, Genesee Intermediate School District, GST Michigan Works, Hagerman Foundation, Hurley Medical Center, Kettering University, Shaltz Automation, United Way of Genesee County, University of Michigan-Flint.
Flintside launched in March 2017 and is now the largest nontraditional online news outlet in Genesee County with more than 100,000 readers (unique users) a year. It continues to grow readership rapidly with a focus on telling community-based stories through a focus on solutions journalism.