FLINT — The University of Michigan-Flint has officially taken ownership of the Riverfront Residence Hall and Conference Center as well as one of the FirstMerit Bank buildings. Riverfront Residence Hall and Conference Center, valued at $15.5 million, is believed to rank as the University’s largest-ever single donation.
Uptown Reinvestment Corporation gave the 16-story, 340,000-square-foot building to UM-Flint with support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, which waived the balance of loans owned by URC to make the donation possible.
The donation was announced in December 2015 contingent upon the completion of due diligence and the property transfer was completed Thursday, March 31, 2016. The University’s $6 million purchase of the FirstMerit Bank tower next door to Riverfront Center also was completed March 31.
Combined, the two buildings add 500,000 square feet to campus, increasing the cumulative square footage of campus buildings by more than 25 percent and providing much needed additional space. It is the first addition of academic space since 2002, when the William S. White Building opened.
“We saw an opportunity as a campus to expand programs and opportunities for our students while at the same time deepening our investment in our community. As an anchor institution for the City of Flint, we are vested partners contributing to the life, vibrancy, and economic development of our community,” said Chancellor Susan E. Borrego.
Campus conversations are continuing to evaluate needs and set priorities to determine final usage of the FirstMerit Bank building. Provost Douglas Knerr is leading those conversations. Riverfront Residence Hall more than doubles the amount of on-campus housing available, adding 500 more beds to the 300 at First Street Residence Hall. First Street Residence Hall opened in 2008 after five years of planning and a cost of $21.3 million.
The expansion of on-campus housing allows the University to offer some specialty living options, including an environment geared specifically to juniors and seniors as well as the option for couples’ housing, which is available to married students or students with domestic partners.
Riverfront Residence Hall offers all the conveniences of living on campus and the option of purchasing a meal plan. It features housing options ranging from a one-person studio to a five-person suite. All rooms are fully furnished and include kitchens with a microwave, stovetop and refrigerator, private bathrooms with tubs, as well as on-site laundry facilities.
Riverfront Residence Hall also features a lounge with gaming stations, 40-plus seat movie theater, fitness center, computer lab, attached parking and building security.
The Riverfront, constructed in 1981 as a Hyatt Regency Hotel, is a landmark downtown Flint building. URC purchased the facility, which was then called the Character Inn, in 2009.
The purchase and subsequent renovation were supported through $27 million in repayable grants made by the Mott Foundation to URC’s affiliate, the Foundation for the Uptown Reinvestment Corporation.
Riverfront sits along the Flint River and the Flint River Walk, both of which run through campus, and it is directly across the street from the University Pavilion along Saginaw Street. Riverfront already houses the University of Michigan-Flint School of Management.
In the FirstMerit Bank building, the north tower will be separated from the other two buildings in the bank complex as part of the transfer in ownership. The north tower is located directly across Saginaw Street from the University Pavilion and across Union Street from the Riverfront Center.
At the time the sale was announced, bank officials said the employees currently in the building would be relocated to the bank’s west and south towers, which would allow staff to work closer together and make operations more efficient and effective.
FirstMerit and Huntington banks jointly announced in January that the two entities would merge in the third quarter of 2016. — G.G.