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Developer close to finalizing deal to buy Flint's former Buick City

The former Buick City site sits largely unused, overgrown or crumbling these days. But a developer is finalizing a deal that could see it returned to industrial use.
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
The former Buick City site sits largely unused, overgrown or crumbling these days. But a developer is finalizing a deal that could see it returned to industrial use.

A deal to sell the site of a one-time major auto manufacturing plant in Flint is expected to close around the first of the year.

For most of the last century, Buick City was a beating heart in the center of Flint’s auto-centric economy. These days, the site in the center of the Vehicle City, is reduced to a seemingly never-ending concrete slab that is little more than a parking lot for GM trucks waiting to be transported somewhere else.

But a developer hopes to finalize a deal to buy the 300-plus acre site and open it back up for light or heavy industrial use.

Plans call for spending roughly $300 million on a state-of-the-art industrial park that is expected to bring about 3,000 jobs.

Susan Harvey is a senior vice president with Ashley Capitol. She says her firm hopes to finalize its purchase of the property from the RACER Trust either by the end of the year or in January or February of 2023.

Harvey says the developer does not plan to delay once the deal is done.

“We’re actually trying to get all the engineering...everything in place to start site work right away and have a building up, ready for occupancy by probably 12 months later,” Harvey told reporters during a news conference on the Buick City Site Thursday.

Harvey says there is one unnamed company expressing interest in moving in to that first building on the Buick City site.

But the brownfield site does need millions of dollars of remediation work to remove decades-old contamination.

Harvey says there are “always unknowns” in a site like this.

Beginning near the turn of the 19th century, the former Flint Wagon Works was turned into a massive automobile manufacturing facility that became known as Buick City.

But age and competition led General Motors to close Buick City in 1999. With the exception of two small manufacturing operations, the site has been vacant ever since.

After GM passed through bankruptcy more than a decade ago, the site was transferred to the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust, or RACER Trust. The trust is responsible for maintaining and marketing Buick City and other former GM properties.

The RACER Trust is also responsible for cleaning up contamination at Buick City.

“We are working with EGLE (Michigan Dept. of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy), working with EPA, to address the legacy environmental issues on this site,” said Patricia Spitzley, the director of Government Relations with the RACER Trust.

An estimated $17 million in remediation is needed on the site. The money is coming from a combination of government and private sources.

Quincy Murphy wants to see redevelopment of the Buick City site. Murphy is a Flint city councilman. Buick City rests in the heart of his ward. He grew up just down the street from the plant.

“I saw the transition of this site, go from a thriving industrial engine plant with thousands of jobs to nothing but a concrete slab,” said Murphy. “This is a very historical moment.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.