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Flint, Michigan looks to revitalize

Flint, Michigan has circulated the national news cycle since 2014, when a local drinking water crisis sent press scrambling to the city. In the years since, Americans have looked on as federal and state agencies have worked to resolve the problem. Indeed, water quality in the city has improved and long-term infrastructure improvements are in the works, The Washington Post reported. With these forces in play, developers are launching a variety of new projects to bolster the city's image nationally and attract new residents.

Downtown on the rise
Downtown Flint is the epicenter of this movement and the Capitol Theater is its core, according to Curbed. The structure was erected during the 1920s and features Romanesque exterior and interior fixtures. It was closed for more than 20 years before construction crews entered in July to begin a $37 million renovation, according to Resnicow and Associates, the architecture firm tasked with executing the project. 

A number of organizations and individuals contributed resources for the Capitol Theater renovation, including Flint native and philanthropist Phil Hagerman, Michigan Public Radio reported. Hagerman donated $4 million to the cause through his foundation. Why? He attended performances at the theater as a child and hopes future residents will have similar opportunities.

"It couldn't have been more exciting for me to be able to go to this amazing venue," Hagerman told the radio station. "To now know that a whole new generation of people in Flint are going to be able to build their own memories for this theater."

The project, which is expected to be completed later this year, has spawned a series of other developments downtown. For example, local investment firm SkyPoint Ventures is currently renovating the Ferris Wheel Building, another historic haunt, according to M Live. This structure shares real estate with the Dryden Building, which was transformed into a mixed-use space. These new fixtures meld well with other recent additions, many of which were orchestrated by the Uptown Reinvestment Corporation, a local development organization that has been slowly rebuilding the Flint downtown core.

Together, these improvements could prompt a citywide resurgence and help locals recover their pride in the face of negative new coverage.

"You can throw money at anything, and fix anything, but it's hard to change perception," John Gazall, architect at the Flint firm Gazall, Lewis and Associates, told Curbed. "People turn on the nightly news and hear about the water crisis, and that's certainly happening. But most people outside of Flint think of downtown and imagine [it as] vacant and desolate. You'd have a hard time finding a vacant building today."

Preparing for the future
As new structures go up in the downtown area, stakeholders in the city are working to facilitate a sustainable future for residents. SkyPoint aims to cultivate local entrepreneurs through free workshops and information sessions, all of which are hosted at its new digs downtown. The arts organizations in the area are also stepping up, engaging with locals to get them involved in meaningful ventures. And, funding programs like Flint SOUP, which hosts events to raise money for microgrants, are giving Flint residents the resources they need to actually execute projects. In fact, some of these small enterprises have already borne fruit.

For instance, the Flint Farmers Market started off as a small gathering of producers sellers and artisans. The event attracted more than 750,000 visitors in 2015 and continues to grow today, serving locals at its expansive new location near the Flint River.

Residents are excited by these developments and see potential for real long-term progress, something that for so long seemed out of reach.

"I think 2017 is really going to be the year the stories of Flint move from tragedy and despair to opportunity and how a community comes together to build on its assets," David Ollila, vice president of innovation for SkyPoint, told M Live. 

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