Flint residents remember Genesee Towers before Sunday implosion - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Flint residents remember Genesee Towers before Sunday implosion

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(12/18/13) - On Sunday morning, Flint's tallest building, Genesee Towers, will be reduced to a pile of dust and rubble.

It takes place at 10 a.m. and should last just 6 seconds.

Those who have lived in the Flint area for a while have strong memories of the building. Through the years, thousands of people have worked at Genesee Towers.

When Genesee Towers opened, Flint was booming and the 19-story building downtown was a source of pride. In its heyday, it was a commercial hub for the city.

"Genesee Towers was constructed in 1968 at a time when things were going well in Flint," said David White, Kettering University archives director.

Robert Segar relocated his law practice there soon after it opened.

"It was very busy. There were a lot of different businesses. There was a cafeteria in the basement," he said.

The main offices of Genesee Bank were there, too.  Ron Butler went to work there in 1972.

"It was the place to be. Doctors, attorneys, business people all had their offices in Genesee Towers," he said.

The upper floors offered terrific views of the city. Sammie Jordan, the current WFLT Radio general manager, worked at WDZZ Radio on the eighteenth floor.

"I remember the time we'd ask people to flash their lights if they were listening. You'd look out and see lights flashing all around," he said.

"It was a unique building for it's time. It was certainly ugly, but most of the buildings in the '60s were ugly," White said.

So were some of the amenities. The parking structure earned a bad reputation.

"Whoever designed it made it very difficult to get around those corners. There were a lot of accidents there," Segar said.

"The elevators at time were kind of scary. They'd get stuck between floors. Things like that," said Kevin Bemis, who worked for Genesee Bank.

"I remember in the '90s, dodging concrete blocks to keep them from hitting your car. You'd find a nice chunk next to your car when you came outside," Jordan said.

Many also remember great times at the University Club on the 19th floor.

"At the end of the day, when we were tired or had a rough day, it was nice to just take the elevator up three floors and maybe sit down, chat with people, have a drink," Segar said.

"Many good memories of fantastic food and great sights of the city," White said.

In 1998 NBD Bank, the largest tenant in the building, moved out.

"They chose to leave the towers because the building was starting to show wear and tear. The elevators weren't operating correctly at that point," White said.

The building continued to deteriorate and other tenants moved out. Eventually it was officially vacated and later condemned.

Its date with the demolition crew still triggers emotions.

"Oh, it's very sad. Very sad. This is a big part of my life. I started my career here," Bemis said.

"I'm thinking it's a sad day. But I'm hoping it's a new beginning," Jordan said.

After Sunday's implosion, the rubble will be cleared away. Eventually, a public plaza will be created in the footprint of Genesee Towers.

A large part of downtown Flint will be evacuated and shut down for the implosion. That zone will be reopened throughout the day as crews clean up the debris.

For a map of the Perimeter Prohibited Impact Zone, click HERE.

For a detour map, click HERE.

A public viewing area will be set up in an area in front of the Riverfront Residence Conference Center.

Because of the road closures and safety concerns, officials and The Genesee County Health Department are encouraging people to stay home and watch the implosion on TV.

The health department says the dust cloud made by the implosion and immediate street clean up will contain high concentrations of dust particles, and may contain silica, fungal spores, or other materials.

These things can irritate the lungs or cause infections in people, especially in infants and children, seniors, those with asthma, those with weakened immune systems, and those with other health conditions such as heart or lung disease.

ABC12 will carry the implosion on air and online.

After Sunday, the tallest building in Flint will be the Mott Foundation Building, which stands next to Genesee Towers. That was built in 1929.

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