Featured photo: U.S. HUD Secretary Ben Carson talked to Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley and other officials about how he expects a housing development currently under construction to stimulate economic activity in Flint.
Written by Tanya Terry
The day after Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris visited downtown Flint businesses, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson visited Flint to tour the Clark Commons Choice Neighborhood. In 2018, Flint received a $30 million Choice Neighborhood Grant and is currently constructing phase one of the project. The complex is to feature mixed income housing. Clark Commons is the first of four phases of new rental housing to be constructed over the next few years which will result in 253 new rental units in the city.
Flint was among five cities across the nation to receive a Choice Neighborhood Grant, but it was the only one Carson visited personally to deliver a check at the time.
“It’s always good for me to be back home in Michigan and particularly to see the things that are going on here,” Carson said.
He said places around the county he has seen that have been successful are the places where the federal government, the state government and the local government can work together with the nonprofit community, the faith-based community and the for profit community.
“We’re not enemies in this country and we’ve really allowed the people who want to divide us to take control, but (then) you see something like this going up and the tremendous progress that’s been made from the last time I was here after the grant was announced and (think about) the fact before another month is up people will actually be living here,” Carson said.
Carson said the project was “the beginning of a beautiful thing.” He is hopeful the new development will automatically stimulate more economic activity in Flint.
Since Atherton East is scheduled for demolition, residents of the townhouse complex are expected to be housed at Clark Commons, and units are being reserved for them. About 150 people are on a waiting list which is still open for others who may be interested. Within about the next two weeks, the first residents are expected to move in.
The units feature a semi gallery, semi island dining area, and most appliances will be ENERGY STAR. Everything was done as energy efficiently as possible, including the building of high energy walls. There will be water purification systems and LED lighting throughout. There are units for the hearing and vision impaired, 5% of all the units are fully accessible and another 5% can be converted.
Mayor Sheldon Neeley said we need to move our community from a victim standpoint to a victor standpoint.
“One of the biggest misnomers is that these properties are going to be housed by people with a lesser standard than most,” Neeley said. “So, it’s not that. We can only be as great as our floor. So, what we have to do, as Secretary Carson said, we have to lift the floor to elevate everybody. So, that’s what we’re going to do. A lot of the disparities around income are about housing. So, right now, we’re lifting the floor around housing. So, thanks to our great Flint departments, like Planning and Development under Suzanne Wilcox, we are able to lift the floor for Flint families.”
Clark Commons is under construction at 521 Louisa St., on the north side of Flint.