General Motors is once again investing millions of dollars in Flint, MI. But this particular investment is more about historic preservation and the city’s carriage and automotive industry legacy rather than about Flint economic development.
GM, which owns the historic Durant-Dort Factory One near downtown Flint, will invest several million dollars to convert it into an automotive archive and research center.
The automotive archive to be housed in the historic building is currently located at nearby Kettering University. The building’s high-bay area in the west wing of the facility will be renovated to house classic vehicles and other artifacts from Flint’s carriage-building era.
The second floor of the east wing will be converted into a flexible meeting area that will be used not just by GM, but also for community and educational groups to conduct STEM-related classes, seminars and, perhaps research too.
Mark Reuss, GM executive vice president of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain, said in a release that “Factory One truly is the epicenter of the automotive industry and, as such, it makes sense to create a world-class archive where anybody can learn how carriage builders in Flint launched the global auto industry.”
Kettering University President Dr. Robert K. McMahan added that housing these collections at Factory One provides greater accessibility to the public, history enthusiasts and educational institutions, making the amazing shared history of GM, Kettering and the automotive industry in Flint available to new generations.
Factory One’s history dates back to 1880 when it was one of the facilities of the Flint Cotton & Woolen Mills company. In 1886, William Crapo Durant and Josiah Dallas Dort, founders of the Flint Road Cart Company, leased the vacant facility.
GM is also financially supporting the historic Durant-Dort Carriage Company office building across the street. The history of the office building across the street goes back to 1895-96, when it was built to provide office space and a carriage showroom for the Durant-Dort Carriage Factory. It was here that William Durant kicked off plans for many of America’s iconic automotive legacies including the formation of GM and Chevrolet.
The Durant-Dort Carriage office building was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1978, and subsequently restored to preserve its early 1900s architectural heritage by the Genesee County Historical Society.
The Durant-Dort Carriage Factory building was purchased by GM in 2013, and the company has since spent $3 million for repair and restoration work on the building, and will now spend millions more on the next phase of the project.
This investment follows a series of major economic development projects in Flint involving GM, including an $877 million investment announced earlier this month for a new body shop at Flint Assembly.
GM has also recently donated $2 million to Kettering for a powertrain laboratory, and the GM Foundation is providing $2 million for the establishment of an automotive proving ground for Kettering students.