Michigan Live: Flint Mayor named finalist in national challenge for plan to transform Chevy in the Hole

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By Amanda Emery

FLINT, MI -- Flint Mayor Dayne Walling has been named a finalist in a national challenge for his policy solution for Chevy in the Hole.

Two of the honorary chairs of the NewDEAL (Developing Exceptional American Leaders) Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and Delaware Governor Jack Markell announced on Wednesday, Nov. 19, the finalists of the group's New Ideas Challenge.

Mayor Dayne Walling was chosen from a competitive field as a finalist for his policy solution, Chevy Commons, a green remediation plan for the Chevy in the Hole brownfield along the Flint River, according to a news release from the City of Flint.

Walling's plan would convert the former industrial site into an open community space with grassland, wetland, woodland and other natural environmental features that will attract resident and visitors for recreational activities while simultaneously cleaning the soil over time, according to the release.

"It is an honor for our work in Flint at the new Chevy Commons site to be recognized by a forward-looking national network," Walling said in a statement. "I want to give credit to our team and partners, who are all working hard to transform Flint and this project is a great example of our creative and inclusive approach."

Walling was chosen as one of 16 finalists out of a total of 60 applicants. A winner in each of four categories -- growing the economy for the future, expanding opportunity for all, making government work better, and best public private partnership -- will be announced on Dec. 3, in Washington, D.C., according to the release.

The city partnered with the Genesee County Land Bank who provided needed assistance on the Chevy Commons project.

"The Genesee County Land Bank has worked with Mayor Walling and his team on the Chevy Commons project for several years," said Doug Weilland, Executive Director of the Genesee County Land Bank in a statement. "We are proud of the fact that after many years there is now a plan in place to return this Brownfield property to productive use as green space and trail-ways for the enjoyment of the community. Its strategic location between Kettering University and downtown Flint makes this project even more important."

Walling is a member of the NewDEAL, which is a network of pro-growth progressive state and local elected officials who are working to expand opportunity in the changing economy, according to the release.

The Chevy Commons project is funded by a $1.6 million grant front the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the first phase of renovations – which will involve dumping dirt over the concrete and installing a parking area, walking paths and shrubs in about a third of the space.

A second grant of $1.9 million was awarded to the Genesee County Land Bank in September for the Chevy Commons for the second phase of plans for transforming the former General Motors property to a massive public park with walking paths.

Phase two of the work involves the development of a Genesee Valley Trail extension through the site, including building connections to regional trail systems, enhancing Flint River views, improving access to the river for fishing and creating "flexible spaces for community use."

Source: Michigan Live