From 1910 through the 1980s, automobile and parts manufacturing dominated Flint Industry. Like the saw and flour mills that preceded them, the factories were centered west of downtown in the Flint River valley. Lumber mills became wagon and carriage companies, which in turn evolved into automobile manufacturers. In 1913 the Chevrolet Motor Company took over in the valley, known as “Chevrolet in the hole” due to its location. By 1934 the 80-acre complex employed 14,000 workers at 31 factories on both sides of the river. Facing a downturn in production, General Motors began removing unused buildings in 1995. The last facility, Plant 4, was demolished in 2004.
With foresight, a local university saw this as an opportunity to cultivate science and technology opportunities in the mid-Michigan region. The entire thrust of this building’s development was with hope that the university could spur economic development through the integration of education and technology, as well as to encourage more student and faculty spin-off companies. Specifically, this new building was created to support scientific and technologically-based ‘start-up’ companies that need dedicated laboratory space during their first three or four years.
The new Science and Technology Incubator building, seeking LEED certification (the first in the county), is the first building in this University Technology Park. The facility is sited on a bluff overlooking the Flint River and is orientated to look back to the main campus, rising from a vacant space that once was a parking lot for General Motor’s ‘Chevy in the Hole.’ The new building and the main campus serve as bookends for expansion of the technology park. As the first building in the technology park, the project sets the direction for infrastructure, building materials, planning flexibility, and tenant adaptability for future facilities. Spaces in the building are divided to serve public and private functions. The public spaces include a business center, administrative offices, conference room, break room and reception area shared amongst all the buildings occupants. Each tenant then has their own secure wet or dry lab spaces. All of which were designed on an eleven foot structural and infrastructure module, allowing them to be easily expanded or contracted, in response to future needs