#LifeOnTheAvenue: Kettering University paves the way for new investment, business on University Avenue

Kettering University purchased a party store on the corner of University Avenue and Grand Traverse Street. The University partnered with Jimmy John's to start fresh after knocking down the old party store.

#LifeOnTheAvenue#LifeOnTheAvenue is a series that will profile the people, organizations and places in the University Avenue Corridor that make the region unique, compelling and – most importantly – vital to Flint’s bright future. Follow along on social media using the #LifeOnTheAvenue hashtag

In Flint old, vacant buildings are often seen renovated and rejuvenated as a part of the city’s beautification.

That’s no different in the University Avenue Corridor. But when Kettering University purchased a party store on the corner of University Avenue and Grand Traverse Street, they, in partnership with Jimmy John’s, made the decision to start fresh.

After the party store was knocked down, a chance was taken on the community to bring in a new business, a new building all together.

Jimmy John’s co-owner Marianne Walsh said that location is exactly where she wants it to be.

“It all makes great sense. It’s pretty much centered where I need to be -- multiple colleges, two hospitals, employees that work downtown,” said Walsh, who owns this restaurant and one in Flint Township with her husband, Andy Chamberlain. “We’re very excited. My employees are really excited. This is good for everybody.”

The new Jimmy John’s, which opened in September, sits on a corner that has seen a major facelift over the past couple of years.

The intersection was transformed from two corners of vacant, blighted properties and a party store on the third corner to two updated parks with landscaping and seating and the current site of Jimmy John’s.

“We started talking about this possibility easily two years ago. The first time I drove it I was not so sure about it. But the change has been remarkable. It’s amazing and it’s fantastic,” Walsh said. “I love being a part of it, too.”

It’s a team effort along the University Avenue Corridor.

Kettering University and its leaders have made big strides in cleaning up blight and beautifying the neighborhoods through Service Saturdays and other community-oriented events. Carriage Town Ministries brought transformation to one corner at University and Grand Traverse to create University Square. The neighborhoods and residents have pitched in and continued the progress.

So many more have rallied together to create a safer, better looking and walkable corridor.

“By building a new structure and opening a new restaurant I think it hopefully means things are turning. It would be great see more investment and more businesses coming to the area,” Walsh said. “I hope when I’m successful here others will be successful here and see the purpose for investing in the area. Kettering, Hurley and other institutions have been so busy and active transforming a community and I know it will continue.”

The fact that Jimmy John’s is coming to the corridor in a place where a party store once stood is a sign of progress, Walsh said. And another family friendly business will eventually go in next door.

“Kettering getting rid of the party store, it changed everything. The avenue itself has changed so much. Kettering has to take a ton of credit,” Walsh said. “When you bring one or two businesses, people come to that area and when you come to that area, other businesses feel confident in investing.

“We’re really excited. My employees are really excited. I expect it to do well, not just for me but the whole community. It’s a privilege to be a part of it.”