GM to invest millions into Durant-Dort ‘Factory One’

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

General Motors Co. said Saturday it will invest millions of dollars into the historic Durant-Dort Carriage Co. “Factory One” building in Flint to turn what some consider the birthplace of General Motors into an archive and research center.

The Detroit automaker in 2013 purchased the 25,000-square-foot building just north of downtown Flint on West Water Street for an undisclosed amount. GM has invested about $3 million into repairing the exterior, installing new windows and doors and new fencing around a parking lot.

“Factory One truly is the epicenter of the automotive industry and, as such, it makes sense to create a world-class archive where anybody can learn how carriage builders in Flint launched the global auto industry,” Mark Reuss, GM’s head of global product development, purchasing and supply chain operations, said in a statement. Reuss was scheduled to attend a news conference Saturday in Flint about the building’s renovation plans.

The archive and research center — which will house an automotive collection from nearby Kettering University — will be on the first floor of the building’s east wing. The second floor will be converted into a meeting area for GM, as well as the community and educational groups who could use it for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) classes, seminars or research. The west wing of the facility will house classic vehicles and other items from the carriage-building era.

GM said it expects work — including a new roof — to begin early next year, with completion scheduled for 2017.

The historic factory dates to 1880 when it was part of the Flint Cotton & Woolen Mills company. In 1886, William Crapo Durant and Josiah Dallas Dort, who formed the Road Cart Co., leased the facility. Durant later took over Buick Motor Co. and grew the car business and founded GM in 1908.

Kettering plans to relocate automotive and carriage history photos, documents and other items from the Scharchburg Archives in Kettering’s Campus Center building, freeing up some space for the university, GM spokesman Tom Wickham said.

“The beautiful restoration of Factory One as a centerpiece of Carriage Town and downtown Flint provides us with an amazing opportunity to partner with GM and to provide these iconic historical treasures with the vibrant, innovative display they so richly deserve,” Kettering University President Dr. Robert K. McMahan said in a statement. “Housing these collections at Factory One provides greater accessibility to the public, history enthusiasts and educational institutions, making the amazing shared history of GM, Kettering and the automotive industry in Flint available to new generations.”

GM announced it will continue to financially support the Durant-Dort Carriage Co. office building across Water Street. The office building is owned and occupied by the Genesee County Historical Society.

GM employs about 7,200 people in Genesee County and earlier this month announced a $877 million investment into the Flint Assembly Plant for a new body shop. That is part of $2.5 billion GM has invested in Flint in the past six years. The carmaker also is supporting Kettering, earlier this year donating $2 million to create a powertrain lab and the GM Foundation will give $2 million by 2019 for an automotive proving ground at Kettering.