New hotel opening in downtown Flint is part of city’s rebirth, officials say

FLINT, MI — After two decades of sitting vacant, one of Flint’s tallest and most prominent buildings is reopening to serve a new purpose for the community and its visitors.

The Hilton Garden Inn, a $37.9 million, 11-story hotel in the downtown area, is taking room reservations beginning Monday, Nov. 2. Sauce Italian American Kitchen and Bar, a restaurant attached to the Hilton, also opens to the public on Monday as well.

A media event is set for Friday, Oct. 30, to show off the three-year project, and community leaders and nearby business owners say the new hotel will add to a resurgence of the downtown area.

“Having this new hotel downtown is a critical part of the rebirth or continued rebirth of the city of Flint,” said to Ridgway H. White, president and CEO of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

“I think one of the most important things to realize is that this is a large economic development driver, so not only is it creating jobs at the property itself, but it allows businesses to create more business, have sales calls, that further stimulates the economy for Flint and Genesee County,” he said.

The hotel transforms the former 1920s-era Genesee County Savings Bank building, 110 W. Kearsley St., which also once housed the Flint Office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and a real estate firm. Plans to redevelop the building began in 2017.

Related: Get a look at historic downtown Flint bank being renovated as hotel

The 148,470-square-foot building’s architectural style is Italian Renaissance Revival with Art Deco elements added in 1947.

The ground floor of the building, which was once the grand banking hall, has been converted into the 2,500-square-foot Sauce Italian American Kitchen. The original bank vault itself will be used as a private dining area. The hotel also features a seasonal roof deck with a bar called Simmer Rooftop Lounge as well as a meeting and banquet center, according to the hotel’s website.

White said the amenities bring new life to downtown.

“I think Flint is on a great trajectory forward. Obviously, we continue to have our challenges on a number of items, but this hotel is being developed because there’s demand that people want to stay in Flint when they do business, to visit family and friends,” White said.

John Saites is part owner of nearby Churchill’s Food and Spirits, 340 Saginaw St. He said he and other community members are excited to see new life in a building that sat vacant for decades.

“It’s great expansion for all of downtown Flint. Actually, it’s something that we haven’t had since the early ’80s, so for downtown Flint to offer a hotel right in the heart of the city is amazing to have back again,” Saites said. “It’s going to actually help out all the businesses that are located in the downtown district, so between retail shops to bars and restaurants that are located downtown. It’s really going to give a nice boost to the people who are visiting the city.”

Churchill’s Food and Spirits currently offers dine-in and takeout service. Its menu features burgers, sandwiches, Parmesan and truffle fries, short rib tacos, seafood, artisan pizzas and more.

“We’ve been doing cocktails to go as well, so that’s been a big boost for us, and we’re very fortunate to be up and running,” Saites said. “We do a lot of takeout orders, that’s been a big thing for us lately, as well.”

Saites said his restaurant benefits from Hyatt and Holiday Inn hotels located in the area and he expects the new Hilton Garden Inn will generate even more business.

“It’s going to be great to see that foot traffic in the heart of the city,” he said. “It’s great to have it up and running, back to life again.”

Timothy Tyler is part owner of Black-owned barbershop Magnifilclips, 134 W. Second St., which is also located downtown. The shop opened in October, and Tyler touts the business as being one of the puzzle pieces to help bring new life to the area.

He’s excited about the new hotel development and the barbershop is prepared to provide quality service to anyone who visits.

“Our shop will cater to upscale professionals and the Hilton hotel will provide those clients,” Tyler said. “I’m excited and I’m sure downtown Flint is.”

Customers can get a haircut at the business, but are also welcome to come in check out the art on the walls. Paintings done by Tyler’s nephew, who is also a barber, depict celebrities like Elvis Presley, Kendrick Lamar and Benjamin Franklin, who are either giving or getting a haircut.

Related: New Black-owned barbershop brings ‘new life’ to downtown Flint

The hotel is also a neighbor to Flint Farmer’s Market, The University of Michigan-Flint and The Capitol Theatre. The Sloan Museum and the Whiting are also nearby.

In addition to the new hotel, a public green space known as Buckham Square will be completed. The space is between West Kearsley and Beach streets and will be used by the community.

An existing balcony overlooks the restaurant and bar. It will serve as a pre-function area for the meeting rooms and banquet center on the second floor. The tower upstairs will still feature original marble wainscoting, bases and door casings that are being restored. The rooftop bar will overlook Buckham Alley to the south and Kettering University’s campus to the west. People can enter the bar through the hotel’s main entrance.

Kraemer Design Group are the architects behind the building’s renovation. The hotel will be managed by Crescent Hotels and Resorts.

Inside, the hotel’s design was inspired by the building’s 1947 Art Deco renovation. Art Deco is a style of architecture, design and visuals that first appeared in France before World War I. The style is shown in the scallop pattern on upholstered headboards. Artwork found on the walls of the guest rooms pay tribute to historic images of Flint.

Leaders of the project estimate the hotel will bring 70 new jobs to the city. According to Crescent’s website, the business has several job openings for a barista, host, guest room attendants, night audit, line cook, public areas attendant, server, front desk agents, prep cooks and more.

“It’s great to see this structure that’s been vacant for over 20 plus years, be revitalized into this productive use that we’re going to be able to share to outsiders of what the positives are of Flint,” White said.

Related news:

Downtown Flint buildings razed for new Hilton hotel project

Get a look at historic downtown Flint bank being renovated as hotel

100-room Hilton hotel, restaurant proposed for downtown Flint

Mott grant will help black-owned businesses in Flint reopen

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