Farm City is the next major transformational project in ever-evolving Old Redford

There is a transformation happening in northwest Detroit's Old Redford neighborhood equitable to the grassroots efforts that have pushed along the development on Michigan, Woodward and Cass avenues.

Motor City Blight Busters have been the driving force of development and transformational change in Old Redford over the past 25 years (with $20 million in investments over that time period). John George, founder and president of Blight Busters, has worked tirelessly to find people with similar visions who support each other. "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts," says George, whose work has not only included demolishing blighted crack dens but also renovating empty buildings into community spaces. "It's one thing to clear land and walk away but another thing to stick and stay."

Through Blight Busters George met Kofi Royal, founder of Fertile Ground Collective, Old Redford's community garden project which repurposes cleared land to serve the community. Last year he also met Harry Reisig, Executive Director of Replanting Roots, a program serving returning citizens and reintegrating them into society. Replanting Roots will offer long-term in-house fellowships to returning citizens in order to create self-sustaining entrepreneurs.

The three organizations have joined forces to create Farm City Detroit, an ambitious undertaking that will eventually cover two to four acres and include a community garden extending 8-10 city lots, a farmhouse, a farmers market, a renovated apartment building where Replanting Roots fellows will stay, and a year-round production farm.

The first phase starts this month with the acquisition and renovation of the Simon House housing facility, together with the farmhouse, which will serve as an education center for the community. Plans for this year also include tearing down eight more blighted houses in the farm’s path and launching a five-month pilot program for Replanting Roots inside the Simon House.

Farm City will take three to five years to become fully operational, but George (who has been at it for almost three decades) is undaunted. “We’re all starry-eyed dreamers with a passion and a goal to leave this neighborhood better than we found it.”

Source: John George, Founder & President of Motor City Blight Busters
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Nicole Rupersburg is a former Detroiter now in Las Vegas who regularly writes about food, drink, and urban innovators. You can follow her on Instagram @eatsdrinksandleaves and Twitter @ruperstarski.
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