Patience, effort are keys to restoring Flint, residents say

2011-07-10T00:00:00Z 2012-07-16T17:47:05Z Patience, effort are keys to restoring Flint, residents sayBy Bowdeya Tweh bowdeya.tweh@nwi.com, (219) 933-3316 nwitimes.com

FLINT, Mich. | "Patient capital."

That is how property developer Scott Whipple described his firm's investments in the city with a half-hearted smile and a tone of voice that said, "I'm joking, but not really."

The firm, founded in 2002, planned $30 million of investment in downtown properties. And although many of them aren't generating any profit, Whipple said there are signs they will once economic conditions improve.

"It was like a ghost town when we started here," said Whipple, development and project manager for Uptown Developments. "Our role was priming the pump. ... It looks like a success story, but it's pretty fragile. But we're confident we can keep it going."

Business leaders and city officials may have the virtue of patience. But for many Flint residents, it's hanging by a thread. Community pride has been hard to maintain in a city that has seen decades of income erosion, a profusion of blight and stubbornly high levels of violent crime.

Flint residents and officials within Genesee County want to change the culture. Now they say their efforts will take dollars, collaborative planning and hard work.

The philanthropic and academic bases in the city have helped improve conditions for Flint and revitalize key areas of the city. The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, which is one of the largest private foundations in the United States, is based in the city and has worked for decades to improve conditions for residents.

Flint resident Lorene Randall said she encourages community members to advocate and be involved in efforts to revitalize the city.

University of Michigan-Flint student and Flint resident Cade Surface described the city as "a labor of love."

Growing up about a half-hour from the city, Surface, 23, said one of the reasons he wanted to live in the city while studying at the school was because of the cheap living costs and to be in an urban environment.

"Flint isn't going away, so we may as well make it a better place for ourselves, those who will be making the decision to leave or stay sometime in the future," Surface said.

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