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Groundbreaking marks a second chance for Flint's Buick City

State officials and business leaders ceremonially break ground for the new Flint Commerce Center
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
State officials and business leaders ceremonially break ground for the new Flint Commerce Center

Redevelopment efforts for the former Buick City site in Flint took a major step forward Monday.

Officials broke ground on a new industrial park called the Flint Commerce Center.

Susan Harvey is with Ashley Capitol, the company that plans to eventually transform the more than 300-acre brownfield site into an operating industrial center in the heart of Flint.

Harvey concedes the looming recession may affect their 16-year timetable.

“I will say even with the news and predictions of a recession, we started,” Harvey told reporters, “Those predictions were already out there in the universe when we started moving dirt on this site.”

Harvey says developers hope to close on a deal to buy on the remaining portion of the former auto plant site later this year.

The ground breaking actually took place on top of eight feet of fill dirt spread over the brown-field site. The former Buick City site remains a brownfield after nearly a century of industrial use. Cleaning up the contamination is part of the ongoing negotiations between the developer and the owner of the property still to be finalized.

Elliot Laws is with the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response (RACER) Trust, which was created by a federal judge to dispose of former General Motors sites, during the automaker’s emergence from bankruptcy protection more than a decade ago.

He says the Trust is working with the developer to remove PFAS contamination at Buick City.

“We’ll be able to segment their construction so we can get sites clean and ready for redevelopment and then work on more heavily contaminated parts of the property later on,” says Laws.

The developer expects to take 16 years to transform more than 300 acres in the heart of Flint into an industrial park for a variety of manufacturing businesses.

Once it is complete, developers say the Flint Commerce Center will include 3.5 million square feet of space spread over 10 buildings and house roughly 3,000 jobs.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.