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      Flint groups rally to end historic designation in Civic Park

      The influence of General Motors has come and gone, but because of its significant place in history it has a place on the National Register of Historic Places. Its history could be holding it back from economic recovery.

      Under Civic Park's historic designation the Genesee County Land Bank can not demolish blighted properties in that neighborhood.

      Now, the Land Bank is fighting the historic designation to eliminate blight and open doors to new business.

      "We can turn Civic Park into the Silicon Valley for social enterprise," said Diplomat Pharmacyâ??s Steve Wolbert.

      Like the St. Luke's New Life Center where 25 nuns are filling orders for nursing garments in an old gym in a Civic Park Church.

      "We think that business model could really transform that community," said Wolbert.

      Diplomat Pharmacy's plan to expand the nun's business model is hitting a wall.

      "Thereâ??s a smaller area around the school that is a local historical district," said Genesee County Land Bank Community Resource Planner Heidi Phaneuf.

      The Genesee County Land Bank is working to shrink the historic designation so federal money can be used for demolition.

      "Things have changed in Civic Park but we needed the experts to provide their study," said Phaneuf.

      The Land Bank hired ICF International to evaluate the neighborhood. They found more than 50 percent of Civic Park homes have lost their historical value.

      The report is being submitted to Michigan's State Historic Preservation Office to authorize a zone change and continue the state contested demolitions.

      "My point is you don't live in this area, you don't see the abandoned homes you don't see the vulnerability of crime and drugs so some of the homes need to go," said community leader Robert McCathern.

      The Land Banks submittal to the state is lengthy. The information is not being considered until May 2014.

      "We are trying to make a convincing argument to the folks in Lansing that this change needs to happen," said Phaneuf.

      Until then, Diplomat is pumping the brakes on business expansion and working around the historic designation.

      "We think we can renovate that gym to at least accommodate 30 to 40 employees," said Wolbert.

      On Thursday Joy Tabernacle Church on Chevrolet Avenue is hosting meetings to present the reports information to the public.

      The church is located at 2505 N Chevrolet Avenue, Flint Mi 48504. The meetings are from 1:30 â?? 3:30 p.m. and the evening session will be from 5:30 â?? 7:00 p.m. The same material will be presented at both meetings.