Explore Civic Park
Civic Park began as a planned industrial community designed to house part of Flint’s growing industrial workforce. Design of the community began in 1916 by the Civic Building Association, a group led by wealthy local businessmen. After delays due to disruptions caused by World War I, General Motors took over the project in 1919 and began a rapid construction program with a goal of building 1,000 houses by the end of the year. They fell just short, finishing about 950. The result was straight out of the corporate paternalism playbook: a planned community including not just houses, but also amenities including schools and parks. Civic Park was not for everyone: the purchase price of most homes in the neighborhood was too high for the average hourly worker to afford. Civic Park was also an explicitly racially segregated community. Home ownership was available only to white buyers until the 1960s. Civic Park continued on in its original form for decades while the auto industry prospered. Over the next century, Civic Park’s physical, social, and economic landscape evolved in numerous ways.
Historical narratives often paint Civic Park’s evolution as a story of as decline brought about by the contraction of the U.S. auto industry, and Civic Park has suffered in many ways from the loss of the industrial base that created it in the first place. For example, population loss has led to a high vacancy rate in Civic Park, and the large-scale demolition of houses in the neighborhood has changed the physical landscape. Civic Park has at times been cast as a place with historical significance, but a doubtful future. Postindustrial decline is only one part of the story, however. Civic Park is also a place with very strong community bonds and a desire to reinvent itself on its own terms. Today’s Civic Park is a diverse, grassroots-oriented community far removed from its corporate origins.