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North End urban farm makes jams to benefit neighborhood

Oakland Avenue Urban Farm in Detroit's North End has always strove to tie their work back to the neighborhood and its history. The same is true for the farm's latest venture, "Afro-Jam," as described by Model D contributor Martina Guzman writing for NPR.

"The idea for Afro Jam was born out of a need to generate revenue year round while also keeping the community involved, says [Oakland Avenue Urban Farm director Jerry] Hebron. 'The community is at the root of everything we do,' she says."

Their idea was to create jams using old, local recipes, "including some that had been handed down for generations." Later, Guzman writes that some of these recipes were unearthed "from hiding places in attics and long-forgotten recipe boxes."

And the profits from Afro-Jams will directly benefit the neighborhood. "Proceeds from the jam venture go to Northend Christian CDC, a nonprofit that's aimed at revitalizing Detroit's North End historic district, where One Mile and Oakland Avenue Urban Farm are based."

[To read more about the recent developments in the North End, check out this Model D story]

Project Green Light offers to help businesses save money, improve safety through lighting rebates

For business owners struggling with the expense of installing external lighting, Project Green Light is here to help.
 
A collaboration between the City of Detroit and DTE Energy, Project Green Light is now offering thousands of dollars in rebates to "Detroit companies who install high-efficiency LED lighting and other energy-savings equipment at their businesses." Those that undertake these upgrades are eligible to receive as much as 65 percent off their purchases for an average savings of $7,000.
 
The program hopes to not only improve energy efficiency in the city, but also safety, as external lighting of business plays a huge role in crime reduction.
 
"DTE has taken great pride in supporting organizations that share our commitment to neighborhoods by promoting safety and implementing programs to revitalize our community—and Project Green Light is just one more great example," says Trevor Lauer, president of DTE Electric, in a press release.
 
Project Green Light was launched early this year and has continued to add incentives, including affordable external video cameras provided by Comcast, and now the rebate program. The program claims that those enrolled since its inception have experienced "a 50 percent reduction in violent crime."
 
52 Detroit businesses are currently enrolled. 

U.S. cities, Detroit included, are rethinking the alley

An article in The Atlantic's City Lab begins on a poetic note:

"The alley is dark no longer.

"In the United States, these almost-accidental spaces between buildings have existed in a sort of limbo: not quite streets, but still thoroughfares; not private, but not public enough to feel protected; backdrops to crime, or filled with trash heaps."

The article continues by detailing the way cities, including Detroit, are creatively rethinking use of these "almost accidental" spaces. For years, writes Eillie Anzilotti, "[alleys] were a place to conduct activities considered unfit for the main street," like big deliveries or trash collection.

But urban planners are beginning to recognize how much untapped space exists in alleys. One of these new approaches was adopted by Detroit's own Tom and Peggy Brennan. The Green Alley, adjacent to their business-incubator and coworking space the Green Garage (profiled in Model D), is a prototype for the green alley movement being adopted by many U.S. cities.

The Green Alley, writes Anzilotti, "incorporates permeable surfaces and gardening space, and has transformed a space once filled with mattresses and hypodermic needles into a community gathering place."

There's many other interesting cases mentioned in the article, and one wonders which alleys in Detroit would make for promising redevelopment opportunities. 

Group seeks to make two streets temporarily car-free

An article in the Detroit News reports that an organization called Open Streets is applying for permits to convert stretches of Michigan Avenue and Vernor Highway into exclusively pedestrian and bike streets.

"If the city and state gives permission, the two major thoroughfares would be shut for several hours, from noon to 5 p.m., on two consecutive Sundays, organizers said. The planned dates are Sept. 25 and Oct. 2," writes Louis Aguilar for the Detroit News.

While it's only for a matter of hours, twice, on parts of each road, this is a big deal. The car-free zones could demonstrate new planning possibilities for Detroit, which has been heavily reliant on automobile transportation for decades.

Also noted in the article, Detroit is late to the game in offering pedestrian roads. Other cities offer an example of what might take place on those Sundays.

"They inspire local businesses to set up sidewalk booths," writes Aguilar. "Musicians play. Yoga and other exercise classes are held on the street along with other family-friendly activities. A street-fair atmosphere takes root, with the actual street and the community it supports as the focus."

Detroit Ento to host five-course dinner featuring edible insects

Detroit Ento, a sustainable protein R&D firm that focuses on locally reared insects, is offering a truly unique dining experience on May 26. 

Hosted by Salt and Cedar in Eastern Market, Detroit Ento describes the meal as "Detroit's first edible insect culinary event." The five-course dinner will consist of locally-farmed insects such as crickets and mealworms, "as well as other notable and unique species," according to the event notice. "The meal will be paired with cocktails and wine, prepared by local chefs, and served in a great local space. This event will highlight the techniques and palates of the chefs and forefront the versatility of insects as an oft overlooked, yet rekindling, food source in the West."

Detroit Ento was founded last year by Theodore Kozerski and Anthony Hatinger, who both have extensive experience in Detroit's urban agriculture scene. Insects, which are high in protein and raised with minimal energy investment, can be an efficient way to feed animals and a potential food source for humans.

Before that can happen, however, people need to overcome their instinctive aversion to eating insects. And that's one of the dinner's goals. 

"We are having this dinner to showcase and demystify insects as a real food and protein source, while highlighting local chefs," writes Kozerski by email.

The dinner will also help kick-off the first edible insects conference in North America, hosted by Wayne State University and taking place from May 26-28. 

The meal will have two seatings at 6 and 9 p.m. To be notified when tickets go on sale, click here

DDOT offers bus service to Belle Isle seven days a week

In an important step for improving access to Belle Isle, the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) has partnered with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to provide bus service to Belle Isle Park via the existing #12 Conant route, according to a press release from the city of Detroit. Service has been in effect since April 23. 

The standard fare ($1.50) will apply to riders in transit to and from the island. Moreover, visitors who take a bus won't need a recreation passport, which costs $11 for a registered vehicle in the state of Michigan and is required for all visitors accessing the island by car. 

Currently, there's only one Belle Isle bus stop -- on Loiter Way near the Belle Isle Conservatory -- which runs approximately every 50 minutes. The route goes from Monday – Friday between the hours of 5:50 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

The issue of access inequality to the island was addressed in Model D last month in an article titled, "Belle Isle and Olmsted's forgotten legacy." The author, Brian Allnutt, writes, "Landscape designer Erin Kelly says that Belle Isle is one of the few places where a person can really get close to the water, which is strange considering how much Detroit’s identity -- indeed, it's very name -- relates to the river. For these reasons, we must find a more equitable way for residents to visit the island."

Fortunately DDOT and DNR recognized this problem and made a step towards fixing it. 

"The DNR and DDOT have been working together for months to introduce bus service to Belle Isle Park," says DNR chief of parks and recreation Ron Olson in a press release. "As attendance at the park increased to more than 3.5 million visitors last year, it became increasingly important to provide additional transportation options to the island. It has been a pleasure to work with DDOT on providing this bus service."

Midtown Inc. closes in on $50K fundraising goal for green alley project

Midtown Detroit Inc. is seeking to raise a total of $50,000 towards the development of the district's second green alleyway. If the organization succeeds in raising the funds through its Patronicity campaign, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will match the funds. At the time of this writing, donors have pledged just over $30,000 to the campaign.

The project is planned for an alley right-of-way bounded by Second Avenue, Selden, the Third Avenue alley, and Alexandrine. According to the project's Patronicity page, "the project will "transform the 415 foot long alley with the purpose of connecting future developments, promoting walk-ability and community connectivity - opening up business for restaurants like the Selden Standard."

For more details, visit the green alley project's Patronicity page.

Vacant land in Detroit could help reduce airborne allergens

Researchers may have discovered a way to greatly reduce the level of ragweed that floats through the air every summer and plagues allergy sufferers. Their sollution: do nothing -- at least to vacant lots.

A team of researchers from the University of Michigan studied conditions in 62 vacant lots all over Detroit.

According to a recent story in Citylab, "in the ones that were mowed every one-to-two years, between 63 and 70 percent had ragweed plants, each one capable of releasing a billion pollen grains in a single season. These grains can travel hundreds of miles, but the vast majority stay within the neighborhood, creating for allergy sufferers a highly localized plague of sneezing, itchy eyes and throats, and noses that run like busted faucets."

However, only 28 percent of the lots that were never mowed contained ragweed plants because ragweed was forced to compete with other plants for space over the longer term.

"Although allowing vacant lots to reforest is controversial, it is already happening in many places across Detroit. Woody plants are establishing in vacant lots and reclaiming large chunks of Detroit," says U of M researcher Daniel Katz. "Regardless of whether people think that reforestation of vacant lots is a good or bad thing overall, it will have the benefit of reducing ragweed pollen exposure."

Source: Citylab
 

The Design Observer explores the urban ecology of Detroit and other cities

While many look at the overgrown grass and a resurgent swamps sometimes found on Detroit's vacant land as blight, the Design Observer points out that these occurences are the result of a complex urba ecology.

Author Peter Del Tredici, associate professor in practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and author of Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast: A Field Guide, makes the following observation:

"While Detroit is clearly a tragic story from the socioeconomic perspective, it is a paradise for spontaneous vegetation."

It's always good to look on the bright side of things.

Regardless, this essay is a fascinating read for anyone interested in the ecology of cities.

Read more in the Design Observer.

Detroit Bikes partners with Bicycle Technologies International for U.S. distribution

Detroit Bikes, LLC, and Bicycle Technologies International recently announced that they have begun working together to bring Detroit Bikes to over 4000 of BTI's clients.
 
Bicycle Technologies International is one of the largest distributors in North America, with over 23,000 unique bicycle parts, accessories and clothing items representing over 300 premium brands. BTI supplies local bike shops across the country, bringing high performance products from around the globe. BTI celebrated its 20th Anniversary in 2013 and looks forward to growth in the next 20 years by partnering with brands that are committed to fostering the cycling community with great products.
 
Detroit Bikes, LLC is a bicycle manufacturing company in west Detroit, marking the return of high-volume frame manufacturing to the United States. Each bicycle frame is built from 4130 chromoly steel tubing cut, coped, welded and painted in Detroit Bikes' 50,000 square-foot factory. This location has the capacity to produce 40,000 bikes a year.
 
Detroit Bikes seeks to encourage cycling by making an accessible, enjoyable bicycle while continuing Detroit's legacy of quality manufacturing and design. Its headquarters and factory are located at 13639 Elmira Road, Detroit. For more information, go here.


Very Zen: Raw food rules at Hamtown's Buddhist center

When thinking of food options in Hamtramck the list is most impressive: ethnic choices (South Asian, Middle Eastern, Polish, Balkan) abound, not to mention new kitchens at Rock City Eatery and Revolver rolling out creative takes on American classic dishes.

But don't forget the café at the Detroit Zen Center (tucked away in a residential neighborhood at the corner of Casmere and Mitchell streets, one block east of Jos, Campau), says Melody Baetens of the Detroit News.

An excerpt: 

The café is rustic, clean and warm, and can seat a few dozen. Diners can choose to sit at low tables on a raised, heated platform, or in traditional tables and chairs.

Food is cooked in an open kitchen, the same used to make the center’s line of Living Zen Organics food, which includes kale chips, fresh kale salad, raw granola, raw brownies and flax crackers. (Living Zen Organic products can be found at Eastern Market, Western Market in Ferndale, Honey Bee market in Detroit, Plum Markets and healthy food stores across Metro Detroit.)

Read on here.

Green builders raising funds for AFTERHOUSE project

We ran into people behind this project at Eight & Sand last week and were thoroughly intrigued and impressed. They are working on a house in the NoHam neighborhood near the Power House, Hinterlands Detroit and other cool neighborhood projects, converting a irrepairably damaged structure into a productive, sustainable greenhouse.

Here's more info: 

The process for building AFTERHOUSE is quite simple. First the damaged parts of the house are removed while preserving the foundation. Then a stairwell is excavated down to the basement level. After that we build a simple shed-style greenhouse covering the existing basement foundation, rotating the slope to face due south and maximizing solar exposure. We then construct an insulated platform facing the street, maintaining the cultural and urban character of the original house porch while guarding against temperature fluctuations. Lastly we build a series of planters into the insulated platform to grow summer crops and shade the greenhouse from the summer heat.

$12,000 will pay for the demolition of the house, utility disconnections and permitting fees, building materials to construct the greenhouse such as lumber, polycarbonate, insulation, siding and roofing material, subcontracting fees for specialty trades such as electrical and plumbing, as well as plants and growing material.

If you'd like the help this project get funded, go here.

Public Pool to host fundraiser for Hamtown Farms

Last week, we reported on Hamtown Farms' efforts to raise money to keep its green investment moving forward on Lumpkin St. just south of Holbrook in Hamtramck.
 
Michael Davis, who launched the community-based project in 2012, is attempting to raise $10,000 to purchase the lots where his productive garden grows. The lots are presently owned by the city of Hamtramck. Neighboring Kowalski Sausage has said it is also interested in purchasing the property.
 
This week, the Farms' allies in Hamtramck are stepping up to help support the project. 
 
On Wednesday (that's tomorrow, Nov. 13), Rock City Eatery servers will be asking patrons if they'd like to give $3 to the farm. If they say yes, $3 will be added to their bill. The truly fab Rock City is at 11411 Jos. Campau, one block north of Caniff.
 
On Friday, Nov. 15 a benefit dinner is being held at the Hamtramck Moose Lodge #1670. The lodge is at 9421 Conant (that's a block and a half north of Holbrook). Dinner starts at 6 p.m. $10 donation.

And on Saturday, Nov. 16, Public Pool (3309 Caniff, Hamtramck) hosts a presentation by Davis, who will talk about the Hamtown Farms project and its current campaign to raise funds. Also on the bill are Hamtramck Mayor Karen Majewski and Model D Green City diarist Matthew Piper, who wrote this piece last year that included Hamtown Farms.
 
The event begins with a reception at 6:30 p.m. An art show called Cut Paste Borrow Burn, featuring work by Hamtramck collage artists Anne Harrington Hughes and Christina Galasso, is currently up. Viewing of the exhibit is encouraged. Expect good beer, good wine and good snacks. Invited guests begin their talk at around 7 p.m. Donations will be accepted throughout the evening.

Hamtown Farms raising funds to save green investment

Last summer, we ran this great piece that included Hamtown Farms as part of our Green City Diaries series. We have followed the efforts of urban farmer Michael Davis before and after the piece. And now we report a potential hiccup in the progress of this noble project. Under emergency finacial management, Hamtramck was about to sell the city-owned land to neighboring Kowalski Sausage, which has designs on converting it into a "a parking lot or a buffer." (Now hold on, Kowalski, we love your kielbasa and assorted lunch meats, not to mention you guys have the best neon sign in the entire region, but a parking lot vs. a productive urban farm that has already planted myriad seeds of cultural growth in the community is simply no contest.)

An excerpt from Eclecta: 

The good news is that Hamtown Farms has received what Michael Davis is calling "mind blowing support." They have created a fundraising page at the crowd-funding website Indiegogo. It is their hope that they will raise enough money to be able to outbid any other groups in the auction, including Kowalski Sausage, and then own the property outright.

One more thing: this is a major opportunity lost by Kowalski Sausage. They could be the good guys here, the good corporate citizen that made an investment in their community to make it a better place to live. Instead, they have chosen not to do this and, in fact, to do the exact opposite. They told Emergency Manager Square that they didn’t have any specific plans for the land, they "just wanted to have it." They told Fox News Detroit it would be turned into a "parking lot or a buffer." What could have been a tremendous contribution to the community is ending up being a public relations disaster for Kowalski Sausage. If they see turning this remarkable farm space into a parking lot as somehow a good thing will benefit them, they are decidedly wrong. It's hard to imagine why they think this is a good approach. Read more here.

Fundraising continues until Nov. 19 here.

DTE Energy partners with Eastern Market on $750K social space

Fabulous news from the ever-growing-in-all-the-right-ways Eastern Market, which is rapidly becoming exactly what it promises to be: a 24-hour neighborhood with food, social and cultural options galore.

An excerpt from the News:

"The DTE Energy Plaza will serve as a convivial gathering place to create a stronger market, and we are very grateful for the DTE Energy Foundation’s generous support and naming of this new community asset," Dan Carmody, president of the Eastern Market Corp., said in a statement. "The DTE Energy Plaza will be a welcoming place where people will gather to enjoy each other and the bounty of Eastern Market."

In June, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. awarded the farmers market, which is open year-round on Saturdays and on Tuesdays in the summer and early fall, a $1 million grant for the renovation. The project has received funding from other foundations, corporate sponsors and the city, which is supporting it through bond revenue valued at $1.5 million and a community development block grant for $330,000.

Read on here.
97 Green Articles | Page: | Show All
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