Thursday, May 07, 2009

A Model for the Danforth Foundation to Follow

Flint, Michigan's downtown has had many of the same struggles as downtown St. Louis, as the loss of businesses and residents have the city's urban core over the years.

The portion of the documentary "Roger and Me" that focuses on downtown Flint's attempts at revitalization in the late 1980s - which included various "silver bullet" projects such as a new shopping mall and convention hotel - remind me quite a bit of St. Louis. Those projects - just like St. Louis Centre and a multitude of other projects here - never had the impact that city officials hoped they would, because the city never fully addressed its real problems, which were the loss of businesses and residents to the suburbs.

The Danforth Foundation's plan to build a $50 million museum on the Arch grounds would have provided St. Louis with just another "silver bullet" that was well-intentioned but ultimately unsuccessful at revitalizing downtown.

The Mott Foundation in Flint would serve as a good role model for the Danforth Foundation when it comes to making transformative investments in downtown St. Louis. It has made smaller, more strategic investments in downtown Flint in recent years that have helped that city make significant strides in its downtown revitalization.

Here are just a few of the investments that the Mott Foundation has made in downtown Flint:

- Provided a $20 million grant to pay for the acquisition and renovation of a vacant hotel in downtown Flint, which will serve as housing for 250 students at UM-Flint.

- Invested in the renovation of a 15,000 sf building in downtown Flint that now serves as the headquarters for the Community Foundation of Greater Flint and includes ground floor retail space and residential lofts.

- Provided a $4.2 million grant for the redevelopment of the Mott Block in downtown Flint, which includes as its centerpiece a 27,000 sf office building that is home to a civil engineering firm.

- Made a $500,000 grant toward the redevelopment of a seven-story office building in downtown Flint which has been converted to 16 loft apartments.

- Owns a 16-story art deco skyscraper in downtown Flint which serves as the foundation's headquarters and provides office space for a variety of professional firms.

- Helped fund a program that has turned a vacant warehouse into studio space for local artists.

These are investments that have had an overwhelmingly positive effect on downtown Flint. Just imagine what the Danforth Foundation could do for downtown St. Louis by taking a similar approach.


Alex Ihnen said...

I was hoping that you were going to go with J. Irwin Miller and Columubus, Indiana as your example!

Anonymous said...

Agreed! What a great example. I hope that the Danforth Foundation can work with the City to be a catalyst for a continued renaissance of St. Louis City.