Michigan’s largest brownfield – former Buick City – to be redeveloped for $17 million, $3.25 million coming from Flint’s ARPA funds

By Tom Travis

A resolution that will allocate $3.25 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding towards Ashley Capital’s redevelopment of the Buick City brownfield was approved Oct. 24  by the Flint City Council.

The City of Flint administration had submitted a resolution to allocate the funds. At the same meeting, the council voted to accept a $2 million grant from the C.S. Mott Foundation for the Ashley Capital project.

South side of the Buick City brownfield off of Hamilton Ave. (Photo by Tom Travis)

Ashley Capital is under contract to purchase the 350-acre former Buick City site from Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response (RACER) Trust. Ashley officials plan to develop a state-of-the-art industrial park expected to bring about 3,000 jobs to the City of Flint — jobs paying upwards of $17 per hour. Ashley Capital plans to invest about $300 million in the site, pending a period of due diligence that ends in early 2023, according to a press release from the Mayor’s office.

Buick City area pictured from a Google map on the RACER Trust website.

The Buick City site comes with significant environmental challenges, including PFAS contamination, concrete foundations, and underground utilities infrastructure left behind by General Motors.

According to the current purchase agreement, RACER Trust would continue environmental remediation in specific areas of the former Buick City site after the sale is finalized, while Ashley Capital would begin redevelopment on 290 acres that are ready for build. Ashley Capital would redevelop the rest of the site when environmental cleanup is complete.

Buick City brownfield. (Photo by Tom Travis)

To remediate the site, Ashley Capital is seeking $17 million in grant assistance through a multi-level public-private partnership that leverages funds from the following entities:

• $3.25 million – City of Flint ARPA funds (leveraged at a rate of about 4:1)
• $2 million – C.S. Mott Foundation
• $3.25 million – Genesee County ARPA funds
• $8.5 million – Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)

The Genesee County Commissioners approved a $3.25 million ARPA allocation at their Oct. 12 meeting. MEDC could move forward with the final $8.5 million allocation as soon as November 2022.

“It’s inspiring to see these public and private partners come together to make this project work,” City of Flint Economic Development Director Samantha Fountain said. “This site was left with unique challenges to redevelopment, and without this collaboration, the project wouldn’t be possible. This is going to spur economic revitalization, especially for Flint’s northside. I’m excited to see the ripple effect this major investment will have, hopefully allowing adjacent small businesses to thrive.”

Ashley Capital brings the largest private capital investment that Flint’s northside has seen in several decades. The resulting development will include between seven to nine new high-quality light industrial/warehouse buildings, totaling between three-and-a-half to four-and-a-half million square feet of available space.

“The Ashley Capital deal is going to be transformational for Flint residents,” Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley said. “After multiple attempts to bring investors to the former Buick City site over the years, we were able to put together a funding partnership for environmental remediation that is a true game-changer.

‘We’re taking one of the largest brownfield sites in Michigan and transforming this liability into an asset for economic development. This is going to have a major impact on economic opportunity and quality of life for Flint residents,” Neeley said.

Senior Vice-President of Ashley Capital, Susan Harvey, speaks to city council during an October committee meeting. (Photo by Tom Travis)

The Ashley Capital redevelopment would also mean a boost in property and income tax revenue for the City of Flint, increasing the stability of funding for city services like police, fire, water, and street maintenance, according to a press release from the mayor’s office.

Ashley Capital specializes in brownfield redevelopment and has worked with RACER Trust to redevelop multiple former GM sites in Michigan, like the 120-acre GM Delco Plant in Livonia. Ashley Capital was able to bring Amazon Inc. and Republic National Distribution Co. to the Livonia site.

Buick City is a former automotive manufacturing site in Flint that the General Motors Corporation used throughout the late 20th century to manufacture transmission and engine components until it ceased operations in 2010.

The 413-acre Buick City site is an industrial brownfield which once boasted 30,000 employees in 24 buildings — making it one of the largest manufacturing facilities in the world. In its last years before it shut down entirely in 2010,  it was the primary producer of the Pontiac Bonneville and Buick LeSabre.

EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at tomntravis@gmail.com

Author: Tom Travis

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