Detroit the largest city in Michigan and has suffered a long period of economic decline with tens of thousands of abandoned buildings and empty commercial lots. It is also considered one of the unhealthiest cities in America due to food insecurity and the inability to find affordable nutritious foods.
Discovering Julia’s property was a welcome surprise for Celeste. In 2017, her daughter, Patricia Messina, noticed a large rooster on the property in a Google Maps image while looking up the address of her mother’s former home. She eventually brought her mother to see the old family property and to meet the lady that had transformed it and made it “so beautiful.”
We transform Detroit vacant lots into urban bee farms for the community. We focus on a three part mission: (1) Eliminating blight in the City of Detroit by repurposing vacant lots. (2) Preserve the conservation of Honey Bees. (3) Provide tours and bee education for the community.
Source: Detroit Hives – The Place to Bee
Hops successfully grow up the retaining wall on a lot in the Stanton Heights neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The black circles at the base of the plants are old plastic drum barrels that were cut into rings and filled with mulch from a nearby community compost. This helps to keep the hops moist. (Pete Bell)
After all, many of the growing number of craft breweries in Pittsburgh source their hops from non-local suppliers, like those in Oregon and Washington. Plus, hops seemed relatively easier: You can avoid the pest problems you face with other urban crops, since hops are so bitter. They also grow vertically, so they need little space on the ground. “I came up with an idea to grow brewing crops … to be used locally in a beer to be able to create a truly local beer,” Bell says.
FROM URBAN BLIGHT TO FARM: Planting is ongoing at Trenton’s Capital City Farm, a joint effort of several non-profit groups that has turned a trash-strewn lot into a verdant space designed to provide fresh produce and more to the local community and beyond.
While Capital City Farm is only in its first season, there are signs that it is having the desired effect. “People are curious,” Ms. Mead said, “especially those who come to the Soup Kitchen. Some teenagers from the neighborhood are excited about working on the farm. People are stopping by. It’s been an interesting thing to watch.”
RecoveryPark Farms Detroit – rendering
Under the $15 million project, a 22-block area around the former Chene-Ferry Market will be transformed into a center of urban agriculture and hope for marginalized residents with significant barriers to employment. According to Duggan, 35 acres of city-owned land will be leased to the nonprofit organization from the Detroit Land Bank Authority for $105 per acre per year. In exchange, RecoveryPark will secure or demolish all vacant, blighted structures and replace them with massive greenhouses and hoop houses to grow produce.
“The house up the street has stuff coming out of it. It keeps piling up. Where is the ticket for that? It just doesn’t make sense.” Devlin said.
In November, 7 Action News Reporter Ronnie Dahl exposed dozens of blighted properties owned by Perfecting Church. Some are vacant lots with illegally dumped debris. Others are abandoned homes, sitting wide open. One house, close to a school, was being used as a drug den.
A private company is snapping up 150 acres on the Motor City’s East End — property where more than 1,000 homes once formed a gritty neighborhood — and turning it into what is being billed as the world’s largest urban farm. Hantz Woodlands plans to start by planting trees, but hopes to raise crops and even livestock in the future, right in the midst of the once-proud city.
Hantz needed approval from Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to buy up the 1,500 parcels for approximately $450,000, or $300 per parcel. Many of the parcels held dilapidated and abandoned homes and buildings and were condemned by the city. Others were rubble-strewn or weed-choked lots. The company intends to spend $3 million to clean out the areas.
“Your eyes would have a hard time absorbing the blight,” Score said. “A third of every neighborhood in Detroit has been devalued by blight on public property.
Cleveland has just unveiled the world’s first BioCellar, a sustainable agriculture project that’s a smart mix of urban design, architecture, and biology. Built upon the masonry foundation of an abandoned house, the passive greenhouse is a stunning example of how an urban renewal project can bring fresh produce and life to a food desert in a blighted neighborhood.
City administrators agreed to lease Brooks the land for $100 a year for five years. Since then, Brooks, who works as an usher at San Francisco Giants games and officiates high school sports in the off-season, has filled the lot with raspberries, tomatoes growing like weeds, several varieties of onions, potatoes, artichokes, garlic, zucchini and other veggies.
For Richmond applauds the changes residents like Brooks are bringing to Richmond. This initiative is what built Richmond in the past and what will bring about its improvement in the future.
“People are taking pride in this community,” said Dr. Desmond Carson, a physician at Doctors Medical Center, the For Richmond health chair and a local parks advocate. “Not only are neighbors cleaning up blight, but they are practicing a green approach to putting fresh food on the tables here in Richmond. It improves so many aspects of the quality of life here. Residents are getting fresh food, they’re gardening, getting outside and exercising. And they’re making these neighborhoods more appealing.”
Brooks’ effort has been contagious. Now, neighbors want to turn another empty lot down the street into a park. And residents in the community are drawn to Brooks’ creation, stopping to chat, check on the watermelon plants and offer to help.
“That’s the fun thing about this garden. Folks are inspired by what we’re doing here and they want to get involved,” Brooks said.
Brooks found a way to create a sustainable garden – using recycled plastic bottles to help with irrigation – and another community member and artist created a greenhouse made of wine bottles.
What happens when you get everyday people thinking about the challenges that have occupied city planners for years — and give them the tools to do something about it? The City 2.0 project recently caught our attention for doing just that, and now we’ve seen nonprofits like the Network Center for Community Change in Kentucky and People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) in New York using this people-powered approach to tackle a key issue in creating sustainable, livable neighborhoods: vacant buildings and lots.
Network Center for Community Change, a community action group based in Louisville, has been mapping neighborhoods to identify vacant lots and houses that need renovation, along with more stable pieces of property. In so doing, it aims to help the community make decisions that better reflect local conditions and needs. Once these “opportunities for improvement” have been established, the group mobilizes residents and other stakeholders to work with municipal authorities in developing strategic redevelopment projects that will boost local property values, increase quality of life in the neighborhood, and/or create jobs.
The Network started this Louisville initiative back in 2010 because it realized that official statistics concerning vacant properties in the area were often inaccurate, often by as much as 30 percent in either direction. Having accurate numbers, in terms of neighborhood vacancies, has aided the group in getting local elected officials on board with the development/redevelopment projects deemed most critical by the people who actually live and work in these communities.
In Buffalo, a related effort is underway with the Green Development Zone, a project of PUSH. This grassroots effort began with the intention of creating a new community economy in a blighted 25-square block area of the city’s West Side — which, like many urban areas across the country, was faced with deteriorating housing, hundreds of vacant lots, and fewer and fewer jobs for local residents. In 2005, residents discovered that a New York State housing agency was using these vacant houses and lots in Buffalo to speculate on Wall Street; the organization formed and proceeded to launch a militant campaign in response to this that resulted in millions of dollars for the state’s neighborhoods through New York’s Block by Block program.
Using people power, PUSH was able to start rehabilitating neglected housing on the West Side. In 2011, those efforts paid off in widespread recognition, as the Green Development Zone initiative was one of three programs from a list of dozens of sustainable housing efforts around the world to win the award for Sustainable Housing: Collaborating for Livable and Inclusive Cities from Ashoka Changemakers, an organization dedicated to collaboration in the service of affecting global change.
Through this and other programs, PUSH has succeeded in insulating and winterizing older homes in Buffalo, developing new green affordable housing units, building the city’s first Net-Zero Energy House, and a major park renovation/improvement (created with widespread community input), as well as turning numerous vacant properties into community gardens and rain gardens.
A key tool used by both campaigns has been maps of vacant areas created based on reports from community residents. By creating publicly available maps of vacant areas in need of improvement, these community groups are paving the way to neighborhood improvement at the grassroots level.