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Sustainability : Detroit Development News

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Local design and architecture firms collaborate on a new vision for Palmer Park

An impressive list of Detroit-area architecture and design firms have come together to help shape Palmer Park's future. Led by Gibbs Planning Group and sponsored by the Michigan chapters of the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Congress for the New Urbanism, seven teams made up of 11 firms recently presented various plans for the historic park to the People for Palmer Park, an advocacy group. A consensus master plan will be created from this work and presented to the city by Memorial Day.

Participating firms included LivingLAB Detroit, McIntosh-Poris Architects, ASTI Environmental, dPOP!, Archive DS, department 01, Conservation Design Forum, Ken Weikal Landscape Architecture, Mark Johnson Architects, Hamilton-Anderson Associates, Downtown Solutions, Inc., Campbell Architeture and Planning, and Gibbs Planning Group.

The plans address a wide range of issues facing the park, from stormwater management to transit and parking questions.

Other plans focus on the park's design elements. Dave Mangum, urban planning associate for Gibbs Planning, says the park has been disconnected from itself and the community it serves. He singled out a high fence running along Woodward Ave. that limits access to the park.

People for Palmer Park is engaging community members to identify what they like and dislike about each of the seven presentations. Gibbs Planning will then work with them and the other firms to form a consensus master plan. Though not binding, the parties involved hope that the city will use the master plan when considering changes to the park. It also provides the People for Palmer Park with an effective fundraising tool for their own advocacy efforts.

"There hasn't been a cohesive vision for Palmer Park in quite a while," says Mangum.

Palmer Park is a 300-acre park designed by the 'father of landscape architecture,' Frederick Law Olmsted, the man who designed such famous parks as Detroit's Belle Isle and New York's Central Park.

Source: Dave Mangum, urban planning associate for Gibbs Planning Group
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

Detroit debuts new property auction website

Building Detroit, a website designed to auction off city-owned houses, has launched. It features a number of safeguards that are designed to keep speculators from bidding on the properties. The idea is to ensure that houses go to people and companies who will fix, maintain, and populate the homes.

Houses will be available at a rate of one per day starting Monday, May 5. Bidding starts at 8 a.m. and runs through 5 p.m. There are currently 12 houses listed on the Building Detroit website. Bidding for the first house, 4184 Bishop, starts at $1,000. Registration has opened for potential bidders.

The city is employing what it calls a "rigorous process" to vet winning bidders. Winners must pay 10% of the price within 72 hours of winning the auction. If purchased for $20,000 or less, winners must make the full payment within 60 days of the auction. Winners have 90 days to make a full payment if a property is purchased for more than $20,000.

The Detroit Land Bank Authority requires winners to demonstrate executed construction contracts for home rehabs within 30 days of closing. If the winner is rehabbing the home themselves, they are required to provide corresponding receipts.

Buyers have six months to be granted a certificate of occupancy and have the home occupied. Failure to meet all of these requirements results in losing both property and purchase price. Such rules should prevent speculators from buying properties only to sit on them, leaving them unoccupied and at-risk for scrapping and squatting, something for which the Wayne County Tax Auction has been criticized.

On April 27, the East English Village Association, heavily involved in the auction's first round, will be hosting open houses for the buildings available in its neighborhood.

Source: Building Detroit press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

Sturgis-native moves to Detroit, starts junk removal business

A new junk and trash removal service has opened on the city's far west side. Scott Stauffer moved his family from Sturgis, Michigan this winter to start Detroit Junkbusters. The company, which utilizes a heavy duty truck and a 6x12 dump trailer, offers services to Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, Livingston, and Monroe counties.

Scott sees his company as an opportunity to help and meet people in his new community. As he gets situated here, Scott hopes to organize some community service events, donating his time and equipment to remove illegal dumping waste.

"There's a satisfaction you get from cleaning stuff up, from being able to help clean the neighborhood up," says Scott. "There's a satisfaction from taking something chaotic and disastrous and making it usable again."

Scott says his company will haul away junk and trash for just about anyone who hires them. No job's too small for Scott -- he's been called to remove a heavy television set for a person unable to move it on their own. He's happy to take the big jobs too, of course. He says that he recently removed four trailers worth of trash from a wrecked apartment unit.

Scott also tries to keep as much stuff out of landfills as possible, recycling and donating whatever he can. Rather than someone renting a dumpster to be dropped off in front of their house, Scott brings the dumpster to the house, removes the trash, and then takes it away.

A former roofer, Scott got the idea for the junk removal business after hanging out with some friends in the Kitchener, Ontario area. They had their own junk removal business there and Scott was taken with all the people he met throughout the day.

Source: Scott Stauffer, owner and CEO of Detroit Junkbusters
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

March development news round-up

March was another busy month for development news in the city. Let's catch up on five stories from the past four weeks.


Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

Reclaim Detroit trains over 300 in anticipation of deconstruction campaign for city

Reclaim Detroit has trained a workforce of over 300 people as it prepares to begin deconstructing the city's vacant buildings. The non-profit organization was selected after submitting to a Detroit RFP, becoming the official deconstruction contractor of the Detroit Land Bank Authority.

The city is using the federal government's Hardest Hit Fund to clear Detroit of many of its blighted buildings. Exact numbers of just how many houses will be deconstructed should be available at the end of the month when the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force has gone through its recently collected data.

Reclaim Detroit is a group that opts for deconstruction over demolition. Work crews go into a house and salvage as much of the original materials as possible. Rather than end up in a landfill, the reclaimed wood is for sale at Reclaim Detroit's store and warehouse at Focus: HOPE.

In addition to being environmentally friendly, the reclaimed wood is a popular design trend these days. A number of Detroit businesses, including Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company and Whole Foods Market, feature the reclaimed wood. Craig Varterian, executive director of Reclaim Detroit, says that the group will even be outfitting a McDonald's soon. It's a sign that deconstruction is becoming more and more desirable these days. Varterian is excited, too, that in Reclaim Detroit's winning the city's RFP, Detroit chose deconstruction over demolition.

"We're thrilled to have this," says Varterian. "This is the first time that the city has given the nod to deconstruction practices as mainstream."

Varterian says that in working with the Detroit Land Bank, the group will be using a more cost-efficient hybrid method of deconstruction. Crews should be able to complete a house in three to five days. Mechanical demolition will then be used to finish the job.

Source: Craig Varterian, executive director of Reclaim Detroit
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

Five homes to be rehabilitated, sold, and rented in West Village

The Villages Community Development Corporation has purchased five homes to rehabilitate and put back on the market. The five buildings are located on Seyburn and Van Dyke streets in the West Village neighborhood. The CDC expects the homes to be available within six months.

This is the first time the Villages organization has purchased homes to rehabilitate, an idea they've seen work for other CDCs like the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation, says Villages executive director Brian Hurttienne. In emulating the success of the GRDC, the group hopes to spur economic development.

Three single-family homes and two duplexes make up the five structures purchased. Once rehabilitated, the single-family homes will be sold. The CDC will retain ownership of the duplexes and rent the units out.

Construction will soon begin and jobs will first be available to qualified area residents. The buildings, vacant for anywhere between one to eight years, remain in good shape. Hurttienne credits the quality of home construction in the Villages as a key component of the area's stability.

"I'm going to reach out to the neighbors of these properties so they know what's going on with each individual property," says Hurttienne. "We want to make sure the Villages is a stable community."

Though slowed down by the city's bankruptcy uncertainties, a process that began in 2012 was completed in December 2013, ensured by cooperation among community stakeholders and federal and city departments. The Villages identified a number of homes for potential rehabilitation, the Detroit Land Bank Authority purchased and cleared the titles of the homes, and then the Villages bought the buildings from the land bank.

Neighboring residents experienced in the construction trades should contact the Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation for potential employment.

Source: Brian Hurttienne, executive director of the Villages CDC
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

I-375 Alternatives Study hosts first public meeting

Business owners, residents, and commuters affected by a potential transformation of I-375 were joined by the otherwise curious Thursday evening, Feb. 13, as the Downtown Development Authority hosted the first of three public meetings. A crowd gathered at Stroh River Place in an open house setting as the DDA and their partners in the study, the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, guided visitors through a series of informative stations.

Each station provided data regarding project study areas, ranging from cost estimations to current vehicular usage. One station had a map of the area and visitors were asked to place stickers at the points where they felt unsafe as pedestrians. Another map asked visitors to place stickers at places they thought to be aesthetically unpleasing. Visitors were asked, too, of their overall opinion of I-375 and whether think it should remain an expressway or be transformed for a different use.

The I-375 Alternatives Study is a result of the impending reconstruction of I-375. Current estimates place reconstruction costs at $80 million. MDOT has enlisted the help of area stakeholders to determine whether the land in question could be utilized in a more effective way, such as demolishing the below-grade expressway and transforming it into a street-level boulevard.

Taking into account the information gathered from Thursday's public forum, the group behind the study will craft a number of alternative developments for the project areas. Five alternatives will be crafted for the primary study area, the nearly one-mile stretch of I-375. Two alternatives will be crafted for each of the secondary study areas, the I-75/I-375/Gratiot interchange and the I-375/Jefferson interchange. These alternatives will be presented to the public at a later date this spring.

I-375 was built in 1964.

Source: I-375 Alternatives Study public meeting, Feb. 13, 2014
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

North End urban farming group to showcase new blight fighting techniques

After reportedly growing 10,000 pounds of produce in 2013, the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative is expanding operations in its North End neighborhood. The group is in the beginning stages of transforming three blighted houses and one apartment complex into a variety of uses. Each building will address a different challenge the city faces in tackling blight.

As previously reported, the apartment complex, 7432 Brush, is a three-story building that the group is turning into a community center. Recently secured and boarded up, the building will host a community kitchen, small food startup business incubator, biergarten, and demonstration space. It will also act as the group's headquarters.

MUFI has recently acquired three houses in the neighborhood that are beyond repair. In one case, the group bought a habitable home through the Wayne County Tax Auction and traded houses with someone in the neighborhood to get them into a more livable building. Each of the three houses will be transformed into working models that address the challenges the city faces when tearing down homes.

Since removing a foundation is often the most expensive part of demolishing a blighted building, MUFI is devising methods for removing blighted homes while leaving foundations and basements intact. The group will install a recycled shipping container home over the first foundation, a hoop house greenhouse over the second, and a retention pond membrane over the third. The plans are within the blue and green framework introduced by the Detroit Future City proposal.

"The idea is to pilot this project, showcase the ideas, and show how cheap we can do it," says Tyson Gersh, co-founder and president of MUFI. "The overall site is supposed to be a large demonstration space that can be showcased and spread elsewhere throughout the city."

The group relies heavily on volunteer work. To help out, show up on Saturdays, MUFI's volunteer work day.

Source: Tyson Gersh, President of Michigan Urban Farming Intitiative
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Coming soon: Corktown, Woodbridge condominium development

Three Squared, Inc., a Detroit-based real estate development company specializing in re-purposing used cargo containers into condos, is moving toward breaking ground on the first of its three structures in Detroit. First will be a three-story, 4,400 square foot mixed-used Model Center and, pending appraisal, the company will break ground by the beginning of February. Three Squared CEO Leslie Horn says that once started, the Michigan Avenue building will be completed in six weeks.

The model center, located between 1350 Michigan Ave. and Grinnell Place Lofts, will serve as a condo showcase and office for Three Squared, with the rest of the building available to lease for office use. The company plans on breaking ground on its two condo buildings in May with construction expected to take less than six months. The first, a four-story, 26,000 square foot building with 20 units, will be built on Rosa Parks Boulevard at Warren Avenue. A second building, with an expected 10-12 units, will be built behind the Michigan Avenue Model Center.

The buildings were designed by Detroit-based architect Steven Flum. Three Squared has also enlisted the assistance of architect Eric Lloyd Wright, grandson of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, to help with the details of the second Michigan Avenue condominium development.

Each unit will sell at market rate, according to Horn, and fall in a range of 853 to 1,920 square feet. Horn says that a list of people waiting to see the units is growing and the company is looking at two more sites for potential development. The company expects to do between $8 and $10 million in construction business over the course of the project. "We'll be keeping the industry busy," Horn says.

Both condo developments will qualify for the popular Live Midtown and Live Downtown incentive programs.

Source: Leslie Horn, CEO of Three Squared, Inc.
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Forest Arms apartment building to celebrate "groundbreaking" this Thursday

The fire that destroyed the roof and caused interior damage to the Forest Arms apartment building on Second and Canfield in Midtown happened in February 2008. After that, local developer Scott Lowell and his wife Carolyn Howard purchased the building with plans to renovate and reopen it. Nearly six years later, the renovation is finally about to get underway.
 
Lowell and Howard own several buildings in the area, including the Beethoven and Blackstone apartment buildings and the restaurant Traffic Jam & Snug. Despite their strong track record of redevelopment, it still took more than five years to get the Forest Arms project off the ground. First they had to convince the city that the building was worth saving instead of demolishing and that they were the people to do it – which, Lowell says, was the easy part. They then had to weather the housing market collapse, banks reluctant to lend money in its aftermath, and the elimination of the state historic tax credits (a boon to recent local developments).
 
"Losing the state tax credits was horrible," Lowell says. Luckily for them, with the help of Midtown Detroit Inc.'s Sue Mosey and the Michigan Historic Preservation Network, theirs was one of the last projects to be awarded under the state historic tax credit program. "It has been an arduous process just to get to this point, but it's finally here."
 
Forest Arms will celebrate a "groundbreaking" this Thursday. Previous work they have done since acquiring the building has included adding a new roof to make it weather-tight and ensuring the structure remains sound. The renovation will include all-new plumbing, drainage, electrical, and HVAC systems. The design will also utilize environmentally sustainable technologies like solar energy for hot water and reclaimed water from the roof to flush the toilets. They will also add a new fire suppression system, Lowell says, in deference to what happened there. "I want to sleep comfortably at night and I want our residents to sleep comfortably at night," he says.
 
Once completed, the new Forest Arms will consist of 70 architecturally diverse units with five top-floor penthouses, two ground floor commercial spaces, and a totally soundproof room in the basement for bands to hold band practice – a nice nod to the building's history as a hub for local musicians, from People's Records formerly located on its ground floor to the allegorical Arms Forest album recorded by local rockers the Hard Lessons after the fire.
 
The construction schedule is planned at 18 months. Lowell hopes to have it completed by fall 2015.
 
Source: Scott Lowell, owner and developer of Forest Arms
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

Greening of Detroit will plant over 1,525 trees this fall

The Greening of Detroit will plant more than 1,525 trees throughout the city before Thanksgiving. According to Greening, a healthy tree canopy should be about 40 percent. Detroit currently has a tree canopy of 22.5 percent. Greening will work in collaboration with neighborhood groups and corporate partners, including Quicken Loans, to help restore the tree canopy in Detroit neighborhoods during its fall 2013 tree planting schedule.
 
"We plant trees in the spring and fall, but we really like to highlight the fall planting season even though it's not the one people think about all the time because it gives the trees a chance to establish roots before the growing season," says Greening of Detroit President Rebecca Salminen Witt.
 
Trees add economic value to an area. Trees raise the home values of residential areas while in commercial districts people tend to shop more on a forested street. Greening also strategically plans their plantings to prevent stormwater runoff so Detroit's sewer systems aren't overwhelmed with sewage ending up in the Detroit River. Trees planted on the West Side means the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department can avoid replacing a $1.2 billion system.

"Using plant materials to suck up storm water really adds an economic value to the city," Witt says. "It also saves the city money in getting water out and also on water treatment. It will literally save the city billions of dollars."
 
The nonprofit uses about 40 different species of trees selected to be resistant to aggressive insect infestations and diseases like the ash bore and Dutch elm disease, both of which have had devastating effects on the tree canopy. They are using the Detroit Future City framework as a "playbook" to that to decide what projects to pursue in what areas in a given season.  
 
Every Saturday through November 16, The Greening of Detroit, with their own army of volunteers as well as volunteers from corporate and neighborhood partners, will plant hundreds of trees each week in different Detroit neighborhoods. Upcoming locations are as follows:
 
Oct. 19Pierson and Braile streets
Oct. 26Rouge Park
Nov. 2Southfield Plymouth E. streets
Nov. 9 – Southfield Plymouth W. streets
Nov. 9 – Ilene Express
Nov. 16 – Lafayette Boulevard
Nov. 16 – Patton Park                                      
 
They started in late September with 450 trees in Rouge Park, where they plan on planting a total of 1,600 trees over the next 18 months in partnership with U-Haul and The Conservation Fund.

Anyone interested in volunteering with the Greening of Detroit can sign up online here (click on "Get Involved") or call 313-237-8733. 
 
Source: Greening of Detroit President Rebecca Salminen Witt
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

Land, Inc. launches "Green T" project, converting vacant lots to biofuel production on East Side

Over the next two years, Detroit's first green thoroughfare will take shape along the Mack Avenue corridor between Conner Avenue and Chalmers.
 
The "Green T" development project overseen by Land, Inc. will convert this corridor into a green byway in an attempt to repurpose vacant commercial land as part of the Lower Eastside Action Plan in accordance with the Detroit Future City adaptive reuse vision for blighted, vacant properties.

Green T is meant to accommodate all forms of traffic – bus, bike, car, and pedestrian – while also providing the community with more aesthetic green spaces that produce alternative forms of energy while also reducing the burden on city services.
 
Currently there are about 80 publicly-owned lots (of 111 total) along the corridor. The Green T plan includes razing vacant structures and planting fields of pennycress on the unused lots, which will then be converted into biofuel. The pennycress was selected as the ideal crop for the area because it is very low-growing, has the highest yield per acre, the highest turnover into fuel from the oil, is non-invasive, isn't appealing to animals as a food source, and also remediates the soul – a very important factor in order to get this land prepared for future redevelopment. Right now this land can't be used for food crops (or other potential developments like children's playgrounds or even other commercial development) because there is some contamination. The pennycress will take care of that, and revenue from biofuel production will also go towards maintenance and further corridor improvements.
 
Metro Ag, a global agency with an office in Detroit, will partner with Land, Inc. on the biofuel production. Land, Inc. has received $50,000 from Bank of America as well as several in-kind donations to develop the first phase of the project in a one-block area of Mack between Lakeview and Coplin. Construction on this demonstration block is already underway.
 
The total cost for the full project is estimated at $2 million. The 350-acre project will take about two years to complete. The full plan includes the demolition of 15 abandoned and unsafe buildings, way-finding signage to direct visitors to vibrant shopping areas located to the east and west, public art, a complete streets treatment, innovative green infrastructure installations like bioswales and infiltration basins for storm water runoff, and alternative energy created through the cultivation of pennycress.

Land, Inc. Executive Director Jacqueline Bejma hopes one day to be able to power the nine remaining businesses located on this corridor with biofuel produced by the pennycress. "There's so much opportunity here that will benefit the whole area. It's fun. It's exciting," she says.
 
Source: Land, Inc. Executive Director Jacqueline Bejma
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

PNC Bank invests in LEED-certified new construction and community education in Detroit

One of the new tenants that will be opening as part of the Gateway Marketplace development at 8 Mile Rd. and Woodward is a free-standing PNC Bank branch.
 
PNC has made a name for itself as an extremely eco-conscious company, leading the industry in green building practices and spearheading city-wide transformative green initiatives in cities like Pittsburgh. The company has over 200 LEED-certified buildings in 16 different states as well as Washington D.C. and London. It has received 136 certifications for new construction, more than any other company in the world.
 
Each of the new buildings is constructed to LEED certification standards. "This is automatic," says PNC Bank Retail Market Executive Mike Bickers. "All new buildings will get that certification."
 
A new branch at 7 Mile Rd. and Evergreen in Detroit, an interior renovation (as opposed to new construction), was recently awarded a LEED certification, and the new building at Gateway Marketplace, the first full-service stand-alone PNC Bank branch in Detroit, will be as well once it is finished.
 
PNC is looking to increase its presence in Detroit in the coming years, and expect the new Gateway Marketplace to be a big stepping stone for the company in its effort to reach out to the Detroit community. At the 7 Mile location, they invite churches and nonprofit groups to come in and educate customers on their finances and how to stay out of trouble – everything from credit repair to avoiding and addressing identity theft to investment and money management. "Principally we want folks, whether they have a dime or a dollar, to learn how to manage their money better," Bickers says. "We're not interested in pushing people into getting credit. We need to get everyone into financial well-being and we will do that in every office."
 
The new Eight Mile location will offer the same kind of financial education and support. It will have three drive-through lanes, the full host of personal and corporate banking services and customer care offered by PNC, and all the most up-to-date technology, "the latest and greatest of what we do."
 
The Gateway Marketplace PNC won't open until next spring. In the meantime the bank is focused on doing all the pre-opening groundwork: reaching out to community organizations and churches to follow the same educational model it set forth at 7 Mile and Evergreen, and reaching out to other businesses in the Marketplace and surrounding community. "We can't do this without the cooperation of the businesses around us."
 
Source: Mike Bickers, Retail Market Executive for PNC Bank
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative promotes sustainability and community on the North End

The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 2011. Their goal is to use agriculture as a platform for sustainability, education and community.
 
MUFI founders purchased 7432 Brush Street on Detroit's North End in late 2011. The building is a vacant three-story, six-unit apartment complex in a state of disrepair, surrounded by vacant land that they use for farming. "We figured we would take a structure that is visually unique and needs work and use it as a community center and, eventually, our headquarters," says Tyson Gersh, co-founder of MUFI.
 
Gersh started MUFI along with co-founder Darin McLeskey to address issues of food security, neighborhood blight, nutrition and food preparation education. They spent most of 2012 preparing the site for growing, planting mostly pumpkins and show crops. This year they have started production farming in earnest.
 
They have 500 sweet potato plants, 200 different varieties of tomatoes, egg plants, cucumbers, squash, beans, blueberries, raspberries, a small stone fruit orchard, sweet and hot peppers, collard greens, kale, a variety of lettuces, kohlrabe, and more. 
 
They are building a table where harvested produce will be available for free to anyone in the neighborhood who wants it. They will donate to organizations like COTS, sell at places like the Oakland Avenue Farmers Market, and supply local food companies like Garden Fresh Salsa and Elie Teas. Proceeds from sales will go towards sustaining and growing MUFI. "It's important to stay relevant with revenue, (to be) sustaining (ourselves) but also serving our goal of social justice," says Gersh.
 
MUFI's infrastructure is rapidly assembling, but so far all the work in building the organization has been the efforts of Gersh, McLesky, and their volunteer coordinator Shelby Wilson. For the first eight months they funded everything out of their own pockets. Most of the money they have received has come from social media competitions – like their recent Whole Foods Market Detroit Community Support Challenge win – and pitching donations; they've never received a single grant. "It's all just us being extremely proactive in everything," Gersh says.
 
Their long-term plan is to renovate 7432 Brush Street, opening a hostel in the second and third floors with a community recreation space and commercial kitchen on the ground floor and a mezzanine that would serve as a food startup business incubator. They currently have about two blocks of land surrounding their site and an additional three acres nearby.
 
Volunteer workdays are every Saturday. If you want to help out, just show up.
 
Source: Tyson Gersh, co-founder of Michigan Urban Farming Initiative
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

Detroit's first Downtown Farmers Market is open every Thursday

The Compuware urban garden Lafayette Greens is now home to the first-ever farmers market in downtown Detroit. Located on the site of the former Lafayette Building, which was demolished in 2010, the garden is a result of Peter Karmanos, Jr. – Compuware's co-founder and Executive Chairman and also a Master Gardener – working with the city of Detroit to transform the area into a greenspace.
 
Lafayette Greens is a goodwill project of Compuware tended by volunteers. They grow organic fruits, vegetables and flowers in raised beds and have an heirloom orchard with apples, peaches and pears. There is also an aromatic lavender garden. The productive site yielded over 1,800 pounds of produce last year, which was donated to local food banks. The space is also designed as a park with plenty of seating where workers in the area can come for lunch and anyone can simply enjoy. Utilizing reclaimed materials such as concrete blocks, wooden pallets, and galvanized steel (roofing material) with a highly geometric design by Birmingham's Kenneth Weikal Landscape Architecture, the park pays homage to its urban setting. There are also sculptures from local artists on display. "It satisfies design (aesthetics) that other gardens don't," says Gwen Meyer, Garden Coordinator.
 
The land is city-operated and the garden merely temporary. If and when a developer decides to buy the land, the garden will no longer exist. "(Lafayette Greens allows us to think about) how we engage open spaces in our city," Meyer says.
 
They were already hosting events like cooking demonstrations and pop-up yoga when Greg Willerer of Brother Nature Produce approached them about hosting a weekday farmers market. This presented another opportunity to actively engage the community and activate the space. Vendors include Brother Nature (pick up some salad greens to take home or enjoy a fresh salad for lunch or dinner), Brooklyn Street Local, Food Field, Detroit Zen Center Café, and Detroit Bulk Company.
 
"It's really important to recognize the agricultural history in Detroit," says Meyer. "We would really like to encourage and inspire other corporations downtown to think about what they can do to be a good corporate citizen. We at Compuware are always eager to share the process we went through to encourage this to happen."
 
The Downtown Farmer's Market Detroit is open Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
 
Source: Gwen Meyer, Garden Coordinator
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.
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