Flint, Michigan, has undergone a significant depression in recent years, and the proof is in the hundreds of foreclosed and abandoned properties sprinkled throughout the city. But one man is leading the redevelopment of the struggling city.
"One might question the wisdom of building anything new in a shrinking town such as Flint. Laid-off auto workers are still leaving what used to be called 'Vehicle City,' and as Kildee likes to say, they often forget to take their homes with them. But he thinks the houses on Stone Street will sell, perhaps for as much as $125,000, because the location is close to two universities, a hospital and downtown. As Kildee sees it, what Flint needs is a rebalancing of its housing market - not just reducing the supply to match a diminished demand but also improving the supply in the neighborhoods that are most likely to survive. And that requires building some new product, in addition to tearing down a whole lot of the old one."
"If even that modest revival is going to take place, government has to play a role, and Kildee has stretched the bounds of his job title to make sure he's the one to do it. Using state laws that he helped to write, Kildee has amassed a vast property portfolio throughout Genesee County. Most of it is in Flint, and the bulk of it is vacant lots and boarded-up homes. By virtue of his desire to put as much of this land as possible to productive use, Kildee has become, for all intents and purposes, Flint's chief city planner as well as its most powerful landlord and premier developer. Along the way, he's invented new revenue streams to help pay for demolition work, property maintenance and a 13-person staff to run the whole enterprise. 'I didn't run for county treasurer because the idea of wearing green eye shades just thrilled me,' Kildee admits. 'I ran because I knew there were ways to do things beyond the current definition.'"