rust belt � the industry-driven upper Midwest, ravaged
by recession � cinched area housing development tight in the early
all practical purposes, the housing industry in Genesee County
was shut down during the 1980s, particularly during the first
half of the decade, said Barry Simon, president of the Builders
Association of Metropolitan Flint.
many people dont believe or realize is that for the Flint
area, the recession that began in 1979 wasnt a recession
� it was an out-and-out depression. Our housing industry literally
fell from 2,200 new single-family starts in 1978, to 222 in 1982.
to Builders Association figures, 1980 sales of new homes had dropped
from late 1970s levels by 63 percent. Those sales figures hit
bottom in 1982, at an 86 percent drop.
amid the rust, in the shape of southern and southwestern Genesee
County, was a golden triangle � one that brightened
through the course of the decade.
economic area was comprised of the cities of Fenton
Blanc, and the townships of Flint, Fenton, Grand Blanc and Mundy.
A 1987 economic
development study financed by the Mott Foundation dubbed the area
Blinton � derived by combining letters from each of the cities
and townships names.
At the heart
of the Blinton study was a proposal to create a common body that
could work toward controlled, well-planned growth in all the municipalities
involved, meeting the needs of each without creating a hodgepodge
scattering of industrial, commercial and retail development.
Blinton would establish an overall marketing program, create financial
incentives to attract development, apply for joint federal grants
and establish uniform zoning districts throughout the region.
experts loved it.
officials hated it � or, at least, couldnt agree on a way
to make it work.
plan is a good idea and it should help bring order to zoning throughout
the area, said Ted Goupil, then the Fenton Township clerk,
in a 1989 interview.
the problem I see is the provincial attitude of government and
these artificial boundaries we have between us. Thats what
we have to break down. Its going to take an awful lot of
cooperation, and quite frankly, Im not very optimistic thats
going to take place.
Regional Development Plan, finalized in March 1989, was dead almost
Blinton as a concept died, the region it encompassed did far more
than merely survive.
1985 on, anything that was happening in Genesee County was happening
in that area, said Simon.
Township, the commercial growth that began in the 1970s continued,
with $135.9 million in commercial construction from 1980 to 1989.
Stone Bridge on Linden Road in 1983, Somerset Town Centre on Miller
Road in 1985 and Sams Warehouse Club on Corunna Road in
1989 were just a few of the commercial developments that helped
solidly establish the Genesee Valley area as Genesee Countys
mall wars, begun in the late 1970s, raged hot and
heavy in the early 80s but ended up going nowhere.
Council and planning commission got as far as approving initial
plans for a 100-store mall at Davison and Belsay roads,
Regency Square Mall. Plans showed four anchor stores; at the time,
Genesee Valley had three.
the competing plans of three prospective developers were sorted
out, the deepening economic recession drowned the mall-building
talk. The rival groups dropped their plans in September 1981.
broken on only two new single-family subdivisions in the entire
county � Lin-Hill in Mundy Township and Chateaux du Lac in Fenton.
were expansions to some existing subdivisions in the decade, the
location and demographics of the only two new ones were strong
indications of what was soon to come.
It is probably
no coincidence that Del Pratts Lin-Hill subdivision was
located just down the road from a new Meijer Thrifty Acres, which
opened its doors in August 1981 on W. Hill Road just off U.S.
The new business
corridor really came into its own in 1988 with Mansour Developments
Gateway Corporate Centre on Hill Road at U.S. 23, and Eldon Aukers
Grande Pointe at I-475.
end, Mundy Township officials estimated that $5-million worth
of commercial development was under way along the three-mile stretch
Chateaux du Lac, a luxury development on Silver Lake in Fenton
Township, was perhaps even more significant as a herald of coming
At a time
when the real estate market was virtually at a standstill, Chateaux
du Lac offered maintenance-free living in palatial lakefront homes,
with price tags starting at $400,000.
It was the
birth of the lakefront luxury condo, and the start of the new
goldrush into southern Genesee County: upper income professionals
seeking upscale suburban and lakefront living, and commuters fleeing
the congestion and high prices of Oakland and northern Wayne counties.
By the second
half of the decade, 48.4 percent of all single family homes were
built in the southern third of the county.
that, growth in Genesee County was never the same again,