$1 Million dollar grant to go toward St. John Street Neighborhood

FLINT, Michigan — The St. John Street Neighborhood was a hub of culture and diversity prior to the 1960s “urban renewal” of the northside community which leveled community spaces to make way for I-475.

The neighborhood was filled with immigrants from across the globe and Black migrant workers. Interviewees in the recent “St. John Street Neighborhood Oral History Project” documentary at The Sloan Museum call the “urban renewal” the “urban removal.” 

The story of redlining started in 1972 when the city invested federal and local funds to buy the property and move residents and other businesses from the St. John Street area, by buying or condemning 1,470 separate parcels and scattering Black residents.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced earlier this month recipients of its Michigan Spark Grants, awarding $1 million to the City of Flint for the development of the St. John Street Neighborhood Memorial Park on Flint’s north side.

"We have a responsibility to reinvest in communities of color that were harmed through racist urban renewal practices, and we want to make sure we make those communities whole again," said Mayor Sheldon Neeley. "The St. John Street neighborhood holds a special place in our hearts and minds, and I’m thankful for this investment by the State of Michigan, especially during Black History Month."

The grant will support improved and accessible trails, repaving over 3.5 miles of the Flint River Trail, which runs through the park. A new playground, improvements to trail crossings at street intersections, repairs of seven existing scenic river overlooks, and a new parking lot will also be funded by the grant.

The St. John Street Neighborhood Memorial Park is also supported by $250,000 from the City of Flint's General Fund and $500,000 in the City of Flint's ARPA funds. The City was able to leverage these investments to attract additional grant funding for the park.

St. John Street Historical Committee has partnered with the city to develop a vision for the park, commemorating the neighborhoods that were demolished. The St. John Street neighborhood was a thriving, racially diverse, self-sustaining community, and home to families and local businesses.

Mayor Neeley encourages the Flint community to continue to explore this important aspect of our local history by watching the St. John Street Oral History Documentary, produced by the Sloan Museum of Discovery in collaboration with the St. John Street Historical Committee.

The oral story tells of the redlining, blockbusting, and injustice through the voices of residents who share their lived experiences and convey the spirit of their community. 

To watch parts 1 and 2 of the St. John Street Oral History documentary, visit the Sloan Museum of Discovery's YouTube channel.
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Read more articles by Jenifer Veloso.