Driving Flint: Getting to a Vibrant Downtown
2022 Competition with Architect Mauro Parlavecchio and Undergraduate student Kaley Denaro
Re-envisioning the City of Flint – Municipal Center. Design competition sponsored by AIA Flint
A mixed use and entertainment redevelopment for Downtown Flint, Michigan.
Driving Flint proposes visionary changes to propel the Vehicle City toward a vibrant live-work-play urban center that leverages: robust residential occupation; regional draw through program activities; walkability and neighborhood commerce; parks and recreation; and the historic integrity of the existing municipal modern buildings that recall the optimism and successes of Flint’s past.
Looking both forward, and in the rear-view mirror, Driving Flint calibrates historic urbanism (pre-automobile), the mid-century automobile-inspired city, and a future that reconciles the necessity of auto-mobility, walkability, and livability for a viable healthy community.
The municipal site offers a prime location within the existing urban fabric featuring coveted authentic mid-century modern historic structures. As a regional gateway site, with proximity to the I-69 and I-475 interchange, there is untapped potential for entertainment, commerce, and businesses to thrive.
However, the current downtown population density (4.43 persons per acre) is too low to support robust daily use commercial enterprises. The adage ‘retail follows rooftops’ should guide future land planning and development in Flint’s urban core.
In response to this perceived need, this proposal offers a catalytic strategy of substantially expanding the housing program with a range of market rates and affordable housing options organized around a village commons, walkable streets with retail shops, business spaces, parks, recreational spaces, and a preschool for emergent families.
The housing component is vital to establishing a precedent model for near and long-term urban development leading to a vibrant and diverse Flint community.
Connection Beyond the Site
Educational and institutional entities such as healthcare technology have established themselves along the Flint River, with primarily institutional and business program activities – employment centers. Consider then, that the other end of Harrison Street, Flint Place is a complimentary living village with medium and high-density housing, commerce, business, regional entertainment, and recreation for those employed in town and along the river.
This Driving Flint strategy seeks to anchor both ends of Harrison Street with complimentary destinations that will support infill development along Harrison Street between these two wheels of economic momentum – one current along the river, and one future on this project site.
Driving Flint proposes Flint Place as a catalytic live-work-play neighborhood and regional destination that will
Eventually, these two wheels of activity will support infill momentum along the axle between them by building on parking lots and renovating languishing buildings to house groceries, restaurants, services, daycare centers, offices, and more housing with on-street and structured parking as needed. Flint has reinvented itself, leveraging its past, at least three times since its inception in 1819.
Perhaps it is time once again?
• Restore and repurpose the inspirational and noteworthy modern buildings on the site.
• Clear underutilized and out-of-date structures that do not have historic integrity.
• Offer an image of a city that is attractive to people who desire participation in the re-emergence of the place.
• Organize housing and commerce around a walkable plaza with parks, shops, businesses, and a preschool.
• Bring national touring entertainment to Flint with a 3,000-seat auditorium (complimenting the 1,575-seat Capitol Theater).
• Lobby cafe and terrace gets daily use – lunch and afternoon happy hour.
• Establish a small conference hotel serving the entertainment venue, government, and general population.
• Provide a civic lawn for recreational activities, festivals, and concerts.
• Establishing a program of civic gardens for flowers, fruits, and vegetables.
• Collecting and storing rainwater and snowmelt as a local water supply.
• Using plant remediation strategies to filter stormwater before it leaves the site.
• Using compact and efficient design strategies for buildings inspired by the local modern buildings.
• Extending Hudson Street with a civic promenade connecting it to the commerce and park elements.
• Utilizing “woonerf” streetscape design with urban furnishings, shade, sunny spaces, and amenities to support the residents, employees, and commercial visitors to the site.
• Provide diverse parking options including on-street, surface parking, and structured parking that supports the various user groups at Flint Place.