Congress for Urban Transformation (CUT)

Oct. 26 - 28, 2012

UM-Flint Kiva and Michigan Room, and Kettering University Lobby

The Congress for Urban Transformation brought residents together with artists, architects, and urban planners to reimagine Flint and work on small–scale projects to rebuild the city.

“Reimagine” and “rebuild” – people said those two words many times at the Congress for Urban Transformation (CUT), our fall conference that ended this past Sunday. We brought residents together with visiting artists, architects, landscape architects, and urban planners to create new visions for Flint while also building quick, small-scale projects to show how art and design can transform the city.

Here are some highlights from CUT:


Mayor Dayne Walling, Dan Kildee, candidate for Congress for Michigan, and youth leadership group Unified Sisters kicked off our opening night program to celebrate community groups across the city who worked with our visiting artists and designers during the week.

Students at Flint/Genesee Job Corps brought on stage one of three benches that they had built in just three days that can be used at bus stops all over the city. Kenyetta Dotson from the WOW Outreach youth group talked about their workshop with artist James Rojas to build a model representing their ideal city, and how that could be created in Flint. Landscape architect Susannah Drake and Derek Williams, from the arts collective Peace Mob, showed drawings of a new orchard that they created earlier that day. Artist Jay Rowland and Bill Hammond, executive director of Salem Housing CDC, described a mural they are painting on the north side.



How should Flint and other cities like it around the world deal with abandoned homes, old industrial sites, urban agriculture, and master plans? Saturday, visiting artists and local leaders gave presentations and shared ideas and strategies to tackle these questions.

A few highlights: Steve Montle from Center for Community Progress and environmental engineer Joel Parker described a new model for reclaiming industrial sites – rather than wait for huge investments, the city and local residents can activate, beautify, and remediate the site in the short-term.

Greg Gaines from Mr. Rogers Garden Program and Stephen Arellano talked about the growing urban agriculture movement in Flint, and how the city’s zoning laws could be revised to make building hoop houses easier.

In the afternoon, Doug Weiland from Genesee County Land Bank and Dan D’Oca from the urban planning and design firm Interboro looked at the many ways residents in Flint and Detroit are claiming vacant lots adjacent to their homes, and how stretches of Dort Highway that seem abandoned or rundown are actually places that people are reclaiming as a new kind of public space.

For the final panel, City of Flint Chief Planner Megan Hunter described the city’s efforts to create its first master plan in more than 60 years, and the process to involve as many people in decision making as possible. Panelists agreed that when people see government investing in new ways of building, and responding to specific concerns that all participants have agreed are priorities, then they will know the master plan has been a success.



At 9 am, about 40 people gathered at Chevy in the Hole for the first-ever public tour of the site since the GM plants closed. Steve Montle and Joel Parker showed the hundreds of new trees that the city has planted to clean up the soil and beautify the site, and the huge piles of compost that are being processed on site. Joel explained that many parts of the site are safe for a wide range of events and activities today.

After the tour, the group moved to Kettering University for a workshop with James Rojas. Everyone built models showing what kinds of short-term uses they’d like to see on the site. The group came up with more than a hundred ideas, including pumping water from the river to flood a portion of the site for a skating rink, creating an installation that broadcasts former autoworkers’ stories and traces their daily paths through the old factories, and creating a distribution system to share compost with community gardeners around the city,

We are deeply grateful to everyone who participated and everyone who helped made the conference possible. Stay tuned for next steps!





FRI OCT. 26, 7 – 9 PM

U of M – Flint: KIVA Auditorium, 400 Mill St.

7:00 pm  Introduction: Stephen Zacks
7:15 pm  Welcome: Mayor Dayne Walling
7:25 pm  Welcome: Dan Kildee, Democratic candidate for Congress from Michigan and founder of the Genesee County Land Bank
7:35 pm  Performance: Unified Sisters

7.50 – 9 PM


From October 22 to 26, Flint Public Art Project invited artists and designers from around the country to work with groups to landscape a new orchard, design and build seating for a bus stop, and create small-scale physical models to illustrate changes residents would like to see in their neighborhoods. On the opening night of the conference, participants share the results of these collaborations.
To join an urban intervention with a visiting designer, contact Jerome Chou.

SAT OCT 27, 10 AM – 6 PM

Panel discussions

UM – Flint: Michigan Room, 303 E. Kearsley St.

10:00am – 11:30am: Reclaiming former industrial sites

Former factories sites can be transformed into public spaces, museums, and thriving communities. See how cities around the world are reclaiming abandoned industrial areas, restoring plants and wildlife, recovering their industrial history, and reconnecting people to abandoned spaces. Center for Community Progress fellow Steve Montle and environmental engineer Joel Parker report on the city’s efforts to remediate Chevy–in–the–Hole, a 130–acre former GM manufacturing plant in the heart of the city.

11:30am – 1pm: Growing urban agriculture

In cities across the country, residents are reclaiming vacant lots to grow food, provide job training, educate young people, and create safe public spaces. How can city governments, citizens, and partners support and expand this movement? Learn how urban farmers and gardeners in Flint, Toledo, and New York City are gaining access to land, soil, and other resources to strengthen their communities.

1pm – 2pm: LUNCH at Hoffman’s Deli

503 Garland St @ West 2nd Ave

2.15pm – 3.45pm: Re-using abandoned buildings and vacant lots

How can cities and residents turn devalued land into opportunities? Discarded materials, public events, temporary spaces, and other unconventional strategies can inspire possibilities for reusing vacant buildings and land. Doug Weiland, executive director of the Genesee County Land Bank, describes initiatives to manage vacant properties, and artists and architects present examples of beauty made from ruins and activated empty spaces.

3.45pm – 5.15pm: Planning and process for legacy cities

Master plans are the road map to a city’s future. They point residents, businesses, and city governments toward a common destination. An inclusive, accessible process can bring communities together to imagine what a city can be. Planners and architects working in Detroit, Newark, and Philadelphia compare notes with Flint’s Chief Planner Megan Hunter on the challenges and opportunities their cities face and the best ways to engage publics.


Jill Allen, Stoss Landscape Urbanism
Stephen Arellano, Food Systems Consultant
Matthieu Bain + Andrew Perkins, Dwelling on Waste
Susannah Drake, dlandstudio
Alex Gilliam, Public Workshop
Megan Hunter, Chief Planner, City of Flint
Interboro Partners
Dan Kinkead, Hamilton Anderson Architects
Steve Montle, Center for Community Progress
Kyong Park, founder, Storefront for Art & Architecture
Joel Parker, Project Designer and Engineer, Chevy–in–the–Hole
Damon Rich, Chief Urban Designer, City of Newark;
Founder, Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP)

James Rojas, Place–It!
Brent Ryan, Author, Design After Decline
Dayne Walling, Mayor, City of Flint
Doug Weiland, Director, Genesee County Land Bank

SUN OCT 28, 9 AM – 4 PM

Re–imagining Chevy–in–the–Hole

Stevenson Street between Bluff and Glenwood; and Kettering University: International Room, 1700 University Ave.

The City of Flint is in the process of rehabilitating the former GM manufacturing landscape known as Chevy–in–the–Hole. FPAP and the Center for Community Progress welcome residents to the first public tour of the site since its closing, highlighting current initiatives and emerging possibilities. Following the tour, participants are invited to two workshops: Opening Chevy shares details about the opportunities and constraints for reuse of the site; Speeding Chevy organizes participants into small groups to generate strategies to reclaim the site with temporary activities, events, and programs.

9am – 9.45am: Chevy–in–the–Hole Tour

Meet at the marked gate on Stevenson Street between Bluff and Glenwood

10am – 1pm: Interactive workshops

Kettering University: International Room, 1700 University Ave.

Light refreshments will be served.