Vacant Land, Redevelopment Financing, and the Limits of Urban Greening in Flint, Michigan

Authors: Mark Bjelland*, Calvin College, Janaya Crevier, Calvin College
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: U.S. cities, deindustrialization, shrinking cities, brownfields
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Proteus, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Deindustrialization and depopulation are at the root of Flint, Michigan’s troubles. Since its post-war peak, Flint has lost approximately half its population, more than half of its manufacturing establishments, and almost 90% of its manufacturing jobs. As a consequence, the city contains vast areas of vacant industrial, commercial, and residential land. Nonetheless, the 2013 Master Plan for a Sustainable Flint imagines a future in which Flint is known as a green, sustainable, and healthy city. The vacant Chevy-in-the-Hole manufacturing site along the Flint River was identified as a future blue/green corridor and community recreational open space area. Residential neighborhoods adjacent to the vacant Buick City manufacturing site were identified as future green neighborhoods or potential green innovation areas. Achieving the Master Plan’s vision will require extensive public funding for environmental remediation and restoration. However, we argue that Michigan’s primary public financing tools for urban redevelopment are best-suited to growing cities and entrepreneurial market-based revitalization, rather than greening and controlled shrinkage. This paper uses a StoryMap to explore Flint’s deindustrialization, depopulation, vacant land inventory, and greening efforts. Our findings suggest the need for public policies and public funds targeted specifically to shrinking cities with severe environmental contamination and weak land markets.

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