Flint

For other places with the same name, see Flint (disambiguation).

Flint is an industrial city located an hour northwest of Detroit in Michigan. Originally the home of numerous General Motors factories, including the Buick World Headquarters, Flint has fallen on hard times over the past 30 years due to the decline of the American automotive industry. Despite these misfortunes, the city has an outsized history, including decisive roles in the growth of the American labor movement and community schooling and evident in a host of extensive and well-endowed cultural institutions. Flint has seen a dramatic reduction in crime the last two years while simultaneously enjoying a revitalizing Downtown and growing colleges and universities located within the city's limits.

Understand

Sometimes considered a suburb of Detroit, Flint is more accurately described as a "satellite" city. Like Saginaw, Pontiac, and other factory towns in Michigan, Flint's identity is often influenced and predicted by the Motor City and the peaks and valleys of the American auto industry. Because these cities, and arguably Flint most of all, have become symbols of urban blight and economic ruin, it is tempting to write them off at the worst as ghost-towns, or at the best as smaller clones of Detroit. In fact, each city is regionally distinct, both in terms of the local institutions they have raised in times of prosperity and crisis, and in the emphasis of civic response.

In Flint's case, for example, the imprint of Charles Stewart Mott, General Motor's most famous philanthropist, often overshadows that of Billy Durant, who actually founded the corporation. Streets, parks, estates, neighborhoods, colleges, and lakes have been named after Mott and his family, and the Mott Foundation funds and supports many cultural events here. But this reverence toward a more glorious past is just as often tempered by frustration with its side-effects and outcome. The bulk of Sloan Museum (see below), for example, is a measured analysis of the opportunities and hazards of rapid industrialization. Much recent literature to come out of Flint, such as Rhonda Sanders Bronze Pillars focuses on the vitality of the African-American community, and its struggle against housing compacts and discrimination in the factories. It is true that many other communities have struggled with these very issues in recent decades, but the height from which Flint has fallen -- from Michigan's "second city" and acknowledged birthplace of the world's largest corporation to an international symbol of crime and poverty -- has left deep scars on Flintites (or Flintstones; another heady debate in these parts).

Understanding Flint requires understanding that its situation is more complex than that presented by the media, whether this is the General Motors filmstrips of the 1950s, or the Michael Moore film. This means that there is more to the place than vacant lots and shuttered factories: The Flint Institute of Arts and annual jazz festival are comparable with cities many times this size, and a lively regional music scene is rooted in such venues as the Machine Shop and the Local 432. One should be aware, however, that any visit is likely to become a referendum on the successes and failures of the American Dream. There is a lot to see and do in Flint, but much of this may be of a sobering and thoughtful effect; certainly a far cry from the dunes of Lake Michigan or Ann Arbor's boutiques. Flintstones (or Flintites) will be open and generous in pointing you to the best bars, restaurants, museums, and parks; they will also give you their own candid thoughts on the plight of their city.

Get in

Flint is a major transportation hub, and in fact this is one of the ways in which its automotive history continues to serve the city well. Flint can be accessed by plane, train, car, and bus.

By plane

By train

By car

Flint is most directly served by I-69, which runs from the Port Huron, MI crossing to Sarnia, Canada, through Flint and southwest through Lansing, MI, Fort Wayne, IN, and Indianapolis, IN, and I-75, which runs from the Sault Ste. Marie, MI crossing to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, south through the Straits of Mackinac, Saginaw, MI, Flint, Detroit, MI, Toledo, OH, Dayton, OH, Cincinnati, OH, Lexington, KY, Knoxville, TN, Chattanooga, TN, Atlanta, GA, Tampa, FL, and Miami, FL. Just south of Flint, US-23 routes south through Ann Arbor, MI, Toledo, OH, and ultimately Columbus, OH.

By bus

Get around

By Public Transportation

As the last section might suggest, Flint is easy to get to, but can be difficult to get around without a car. MTA, the public transit agency, is a reasonably priced (if time-consuming) way to reach your destination, and if you expect to stay within the Downtown area, walking is certainly an option.

By car

While it might be possible in theory to explore Flint without a car, very few people would want to do so. Even after one considers the time and effort saved here, there is something singularly appropriate about traveling the boulevards and parkways, the industrial zones and factory strips, in the vehicle this city helped popularize. Of course, it also helps that Flint is a delight to drive, with a coherent network of roads and expressways linking the city to the suburbs, and abundant parking and a lack of congestion (ironically due to Flint's recent depopulation). Among the city's much-touted $400 million redevelopment efforts are miles of infrastructural repaving and repair, and it is generally possible to get between any two points of the city in ten or fifteen minutes, or to access the remotest suburbs in well under an hour.

The streetscape of Flint is based on two grids, one which conforms to the river for several square miles in proximity to Downtown, and another which is cardinally oriented. While Flint by-and-large conforms to its grids, there is enough topographical variation to cause many roads to split and angle. Some major roads the follow this pattern are Welch Blvd., Flushing Rd., Chevrolet Ave., Miller Rd., Sagniaw St., and Dort Hwy. Within some neighborhoods, the broader streets become curving boulevards with grassy medians, and sometimes this is the only relic of a formerly affluent area.

Few roads Downtown now are one way with the four of them are north-south streets: Beach, Church, Harrison and Wallenberg. Saginaw Street bisects this area from north to south, and dividing east and west addresses, while the bridge at Saginaw street divides the city into north and south.

In the larger grid, neighborhoods are divided by major "mile" roads: to the north (running east-west) one passes Hamilton or Davison, Pasadena, Pierson, and Carpenter, to the south (running east-west) Court, Lippincott, Atherton, and Hemphill (on the half-mile), to the east (running north-south), Lewis, Dort, and Center, and to the west (running north-south) Fenton or Saginaw, Dupont, and Ballenger or Clio. It will be important to have a map: while these roads are generally straight, they don't always connect up as one would expect, and it should be easy to navigate as long as you can maintain a basic orientation.

For getting around the city quickly, though, and for reaching most of the suburbs, nothing is faster than Flint's four expressways: I-69, I-75, I-475, and US-23. A trained Flintite can use this network of 70mph roads to go from a coney at Angelo's (see below) to a shake at the Atlas (see below) in about five minutes. I-75 runs to the west of Flint, with access (from south to north) to I-475, US-23 (only driving south) Bristol, I-69, Miller, Corunna, Pierson, Mt. Morris, and 475 again. I-475 runs through east Flint proper (meeting up with 75 outside the city) with access (from south to north) to Hill, Bristol, Hempill, Atherton, I-69, Court (only driving south), Robert T. Longway, Davison/Hamilton, Stewart, Pierson, Carpenter, Saginaw St. (in Mt. Morris), Clio Rd., and I-75. I-69 runs through south Flint proper with access (from east to west) to Center, Dort, I-475, Saginaw, Hammerberg, and I-75. US-23 splits from I-75 just south of Flint, serving the south suburbs.

With a map in your hand, this network is not only sane; it is comprehensible and convenient.

By bicycle

Flint currently has little in the way of bicycling trails, although development is planned to extend these further throughout the city and suburbs, particularly throughout the West Side. The most extensive bike route is currently the Flint River Trail which extends north from downtown Flint to the city of Genesee on the Halloway Reservoir. Other routes link the Riverfront trail to Downtown, the Cultural Center, and Kearsley Park.

Due to Flint's relatively compact size, many attractions are within a short distance of each other by bike. Cyclists are urged to use caution, however, especially on major thoroughfares such as Robert T. Longway or Chavez Drive, as traffic can be fast and heavy, and hills and curves tend to obstruct vision for both cyclists and motorists.

See

Downtown Flint

Downtown Flint covers approximately one square mile near the center of the city, bounded roughly by Fifth Avenue to the north, I-69 to the south, I-475 to the east, and Thread Creek to the west, with most commercial activity focused along Saginaw Street and the University of Michigan-Flint Campus.

Flint Cultural Center

The Cultural Center is a campus constructed in the 1950s and 60s alongside Mott Community College (see below) with local support and funds from the General Motors. Arranged in a park like setting along both sides of Kearsley Street just east of 475, this area hosts nine separate entities managed under the organizational umbrella of the Flint Cultural Center Corporation, and is often touted as Flint's crown jewel. The Cultural Center includes the Mott Applewood Estates, Bower Theatre (home of the award winning Flint Youth Theatre), Longway Planetarium (Michigan's largest), the Flint Institute of Arts (Michigan's best endowed after the Detroit Institute of Arts), the Flint Public Library, the Flint Institute of Music (home to the Flint Symphony Orchestra), Sloan Museum and its adjuct Buick Gallery & Research Center, The Sarvis Center, and The Whiting Auditorium (which often hosts touring Broadway productions).

The first half of the museum is given to featured exhibits, such as the current "Strange Matter" and "It's a Nano World." The second half is given over to the compelling and narratively driven Flint and the American Dream, a thoughtful exposition and discussion of Flint's long and tumultuous relationship with the automotive industry. Encompassing figures ranging from the anti-union philanthropist C.S. Mott to the muckraking documentarian Michael Moore, and events including the sit-down strike and the 1960's sit-in for the dissolution of racist housing compacts, this exhibit offers a dizzying amount of material for political, social, and cultural discussion. Included in the admissions price, visitors should not neglect the Buick Gallery and Research Center, located one block away at 303 Walnut Street. This display permanently features several dozen classic G.M. cars, including several concept designs. Sloan also periodically offers workshops and lecture series and a collection of 125,000 including the Perry Archives of historical documents and photographs. Many of the local car shows are supported and promoted by the museum. The Halfway Cafe is located at the midpoint of the main museum, but is only stocked with vending machine fare, so you may want to pack a lunch. $6 Adults, $5 Seniors, $4 Children (3-11), Adult School Programs, $3 Student School Programs, Free for Children (2 and under), Teachers.

The institute also offers a series of exhibitions, often with a heavy emphasis on contemporary work. Upcoming exhibitions include "Beyond the Frame: African American Comic Book Artists" and "Magic Moments: Works on Paper by Ed Fraga." The Institute offers classes through its Art School (see below) as well as other programs and special events. Check the website for details. $7 Adults, $5 Seniors, Students, Free for Children (12 and under) and Members.

History

Sites in the Suburbs

Do

Festivals and Events

During the summertime Flint hosts a series of lively festivals and events, usually centered downtown or at the Cultural Center. These are included, but not limited to, Juneteenth, The Flint Art Festival, Flint 4th of July Celebration, The Flint Storytellers Festival, Quilts at the Crossroads, The Flint Gallery Walk, The Flint Jazz Festival, and the internationally famed Bobby Crim Festival of Races and more. For a real dose of the city, any and all of these festivals are a great time to visit, because this is when the locals come out to play.

Buy

Eat

Downtown

Carriage Town

Drink

Downtown

Sleep

Stay safe

Flint has long been one of the most dangerous cities in the United States. Poverty is extremely wide-spread in the city. Walking at night is very dangerous, and it is advised that you travel in groups during the day. Crime rates have not improved.

In a nutshell, Flint is a city that is way off the beaten path and can not exactly be considered a tourist destination.

Stay healthy

WARNING: In recent years, the tap water has contained a high amount of lead due to a change to a new corrosive water source. It is advised that you use bottled water for drinking and food preparation.

Go next

Routes through Flint

Battle Creek East Lansing  W  E  Port Huron END
Lansing Swartz Creek  W  E  Port Huron END
Bay City Saginaw  N  S  Clarkston Detroit
Bay City Saginaw  N  S  Fenton Ann Arbor


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, April 03, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.