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Rep. Dan Kildee will pursue federal funding for demolition projects in Bay, Genesee counties

Two decades-old school buildings sit abandoned in Bay City. Both have been targets for vandalism and inhabit residential districts. In Genesee County, many more properties are in dire need of redevelopment.

A new push for federal funding may be the key to battling blight in both communities.

U.S. Representative Dan Kildee is requesting $1.75 million on behalf of the Genesee and Bay County Land Banks. If granted, the money will fund demolition projects – including the former Wenona school building which was built in the 1960s and has been abandoned since 2006.

Kildee says the project could immediately benefit the surrounding neighborhoods.

“It would take a blighted building and turn it into something temporarily, at least that would be green and beautiful,” Kildee said. “And then maybe in the not-too-distant future would be the home for new housing development.”

The Genesee County Land Bank Authority would demolish up to 65 of the most dangerous, vacant properties, prioritized by resident input according to Kildee’s 2022 Appropriation Community Project Funding Submitted Proposals.

Bay county treasurer Shawna Walraven says developers have already been eyeing the property the schools sit on for housing development, but the cost of demolition is too high for any movement.

“There has been a lot of interest in these properties, people want to redevelop them,” Walraven said. “Unfortunately, the costs are so exorbitant for the environmental remediation and HVAC required to get these properties back in use that the barrier for private redevelopment is just too high.”

Walraven said if funding is approved, demolition would likely take place within a year of the next appropriations bill.

Kildee said if it’s not approved, he intends on pursuing other sources funding.

“I'm going to do everything I can to help get this done, because it's a priority for the community. And you know, when it's a priority for them, it becomes a priority for me.”

Michael Livingston is a senior at Central Michigan University majoring in Journalism and International Relations. He grew up in Hartland, a small town in Livingston County. After graduation in 2022, he aspires to take his reporting abroad as a correspondent.