FLINT, Mich., June 8, 2017 – A shuttered Flint school has been transformed into a multipurpose neighborhood hub with the grand opening of the Flint Development Center on Thursday, June 8.
The Center, located in the former Bunche Elementary, is now home to recreational activities and after-school programs, and will offer an even greater number of services to the community once renovations are complete. The goal is for youth and senior activities, early childhood development, recreation and exercise opportunities, job training, entrepreneurial services, and more to be housed under one roof for the benefit of the surrounding neighborhood.
Evergreen Community Development Initiative (ECDI), a nonprofit affiliated with Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church, purchased the Bunche Elementary building in 2014 with the intention of creating a one-stop facility where residents can safely engage in social, educational, cultural, recreational, community service, civic and governmental activities.
The first of the three-phase renovation plan was completed in May, and four service providers moved in June 1: Genesee County Parks and Recreation Commission, YMCA of Greater Flint, Flintball.com and Shooting for the Stars.
“Through key partnerships and cooperation, we’re transforming a vacant building and potential drain on the neighborhood into a community asset that serves our children and families,” said Rev. Daniel Smith, founder of ECDI and pastor of Evergreen Church. “Our neighborhood deserves a high-quality center where residents can access a variety of programs and the services they need.”
A number of community leaders spoke at the ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday, including Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, Flint Councilman Eric Mays and Ruth Mott Foundation President Handy Lindsey, among others.
Repurposing vacant school buildings was an approach highlighted in the Imagine Flint Master Plan. Strong community centers can help deter residents from leaving, connect residents to needed services and contribute overall to a strong and safe neighborhood.
The location of the Flint Development Center is ideal because of nearby Max Brandon Park, one of the largest parks in Genesee County with 107 acres of urban forest.
The Flint Development Center was made possible through a partnership among ECDI, the Flint Neighborhood Coalition, Flintball.com and Shooting for the Stars. Altogether, they formed the Flint Development Group, which is the management entity for the Flint Development Center.
“With the Flint water crisis, economic challenges and health disparities, we know first-hand that there is a great need for a facility like the Flint Development Center,” said Shelly Sparks, executive director. “Our city of Flint will be strengthened if we create more common places for all citizens to safely interact while practicing the principles of community.”
In the first phase of the construction plan after purchasing the building, the Flint Development Group conducted a massive cleanup and made the plumbing and boiler systems operational. The newly renovated area includes meeting space, gymnasium, community room, auditorium, front office, computer room and two classrooms.
Organizations that have financially supported the Flint Development Center include the Ruth Mott Foundation, Chemical Bank, LISC, and Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church. The Ruth Mott Foundation also served as guarantor on a construction loan, something the Foundation has never done before but determined was a critical move in helping the Flint Development Center become a reality.
“We listened to north Flint residents who told us they value community centers and neighborhood schools,” Ruth Mott Foundation President Handy Lindsey said. “The Flint Development Center was the first neighborhood hub we supported as part of our north Flint strategy, and the work being done here is completely aligned with our goal of achieving impact with the residents of north Flint.”
The Flint Development Group is still seeking funding sources for the final phases.
Based on fundraising efforts, phase two construction for an early childhood education space is scheduled to begin in late 2017. Phase three, a business center, is slated for 2018.
All donations to the Flint Development Center capital campaign are tax-deductible and 100 percent of every donation goes directly toward the renovation and maintenance of the Center. Contributions may be made via the website at www.flintdc.org or mailed to Evergreen Community Development Initiative, PO BOX 310566, Flint, MI 48531.