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Flint struggles with future of historic neighborhood

Dec 15, 2014

A plan to shrink the size of the Carriage Town historic district in Flint is running into opposition from people who live in the neighborhood.

Carriage Town is located just across the Flint River from the city’s downtown core. It’s a mix of neatly restored, large single-family homes and blighted buildings.  

It’s one of Flint’s oldest neighborhoods. It’s called Carriage Town because it was at the original center of the city’s early carriage-building industry. 

These buildings sit on the western edge of the Carriage Town neighborhood. (file photo)
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Because it is a designated historic district, individuals need to have renovation plans approved for any buildings in the Carriage Town neighborhood.

Last month, the Carriage Town Historic District Boundary Review Committee released its report on the neighborhood. Among its suggestions: shrink the historic districts by 10 blocks, allow Hurley Medical Center to demolish some homes it owns in the district, and allow Kettering University to tear down several buildings it owns near Atwood Stadium.  

The report concedes substantially shrinking the size of the neighborhood’s boundaries may endanger the neighborhood’s historic designation. 

Recently, people living in the Carriage Town neighborhood met to discuss the report. 

Michael Freeman is with the Carriage Town Historic Neighborhood Association. He puts the blame for the ongoing blight in the neighborhood on the local hospital, Kettering University, and the county land bank.

“A significant amount of the blight that exists within our neighborhood is actually due to institutional ownership,” says Freeman.

Freeman worries the proposed changes may change the “urban” feel of Carriage Town. 

But the report does have its supporters.   

An editorial in the Flint Journal endorsed the proposals laid out in the report: "Shrinking the boundaries would remove unnecessary hurdles to development. Too often, individuals can get caught up in the mindset that 'if it's old, it's worth saving,' and that simply isn't always the case."

The report has been sent to the city planning commission, as well as several state agencies.

The neighborhood association is weighing its options if a green light is given to shrink the historic district.