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U of M-Flint eyes downtown office building for expansion

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan Flint is considering buying part of the FirstMerit Bank complex in downtown Flint, a move that university officials hope will solve some of the college’s space issues.

U of M-Flint Chancellor Sue Borrego says the building would provide 120,000 square feet of space. She says the university would like to use the building for classrooms and administrative office space.

“We have a number of programs that absolutely can’t take any more students because of space,” says Borrego. 

Too much space has been the problem at FirstMerit. 

FirstMerit acquired the buildings when it bought Citizens Bank in 2012. The Ohio-based bank laid off more than 100 employees in Flint following the merger. That left large portions of the three-building complex underused. 

Company officials say they plan to consolidate their employees in the remaining two office towers in Flint. There are more than 400 FirstMerit employees in the bank’s Flint office complex, which houses part of the bank’s commercial lending division.

Sandy Pierce is a vice chairman of FirstMerit corporation and the chairman and CEO of FirstMerit Michigan. She insists FirstMerit has no plans to sell the remaining buildings.

“There is no job loss here. This is simply putting people together,” says Pierce. “The weather ball stays!”

This is not a done deal. 

On Thursday, University of Michigan regents  authorized university officials to pursue the purchase of the building. The two sides have already agreed to $6 million sales price. But the two sides still need to complete due diligence on the deal.

Borrego is optimistic the deal can be finalized in the next few months. 

If all goes as expected, the university could move in next year. 

It’s unclear how much the university will need to spend to renovate the office space into an academic one. 

Even with this pending purchase, Borrego says University of Michigan-Flint still needs to expand.      

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.
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