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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
 

Weigh in on the idea you like best to replace downtown's I-375

Local planners have unveiled six options for transforming I-375, a downtown freeway that divides Detroit's central business district from near east side neighborhoods including Lafayette Park and Eastern Market.

The Detroit Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is inviting members of the public to learn about and comment on these six design alternatives at a community forum on Thursday, June 12, 2014.  The open house event will be held from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Detroit Eastern Market Shed 5 (2934 Russell St.).

I-375 was built in 1964. Black Bottom, the neighborhood that served as the one-time center of economic and cultural life for Detroit's black community, was razed to make way for the freeway and urban renewal housing projects adjacent to it. In recent decades, the efficacy and overall usefullness of the freeway have been brought into question as traffic counts along the route have declined.

The six options for removing the freeway and replacing it with more pedestrian and environmentally friendly alternatives vary in cost from $40 million to $80 million.

To learn more about the proposals, visit http://i375detroit.com/.

Local professor: To stop blight, first stop suburban sprawl

George Galster, a professor of urban planning at Wayne State University, is encouraging policy makers to stop taking a myopic view of Detroit's blight problem. He contends that blight in Detroit is not a problem the city can solve in isolation because it is the result of regional economic forces related to excessive housing development on the suburban fringe of the metropolis.

Says Galster:

"Since 1950, two-thirds of the city’s population has systematically been siphoned off by the region’s housing 'disassembly line.' In the tri-county metro area, developers have in every decade since 1950 built many more dwellings -- an average of more than 10,000 per year -- than the net growth in households required. Developers figured that their new suburban subdivisions could successfully compete against the older housing stock. They were right. As households filled these new dwellings they vacated their previous homes, which other households decided to occupy because they were viewed as superior options to where they were previously living."

Galster recommends the region establish a "a metropolitan growth boundary" to limit suburban development and stem the tide of blight in Detroit.

Read Galster's op-ed in the Detroit Free Press.

Celebrate National Bike Month with Tour de Troit

May is National Bike Month. It's also when Tour de Troit holds its annual Cycle into Spring ride. The ride will take place this Saturday, May 10 at 9 a.m.

For the third year in a row, the 20-mile cycling event held in collaboration with the Detroit Eastside Community Collaborative will begin and end on the banks of the Detroit River at Maheras Gentry Park in Detroit.

Cycle Into Spring attracted over 500 riders in 2013 and has raised over $5,000 for the Conner Creek Greenway since 2012. Seven miles of this greenway are currently complete, and funds raised at this year’s Cycle Into Spring will support programming and the development of the final two miles.

The police escorted ride, which is also sweeper and SAG-supported, goes from the Detroit River to 8 Mile and back again along the Conner Creek Greenway (CCG), which boasts nine miles of cycling infrastructure that traces the original Conner Creek and links people, parks, green spaces, neighborhoods, schools and shops. Sites along the way include Coleman A. Young International Airport, Mt. Olivet Cemetery, the Milbank Trail, the Chrysler Jefferson North Assembly Plant and Chandler Park.

Riders can register for ride at Eventbrite.

More information is available on Tour de Troit's website.

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.

Another green alley coming to Midtown

"Another Green Alley." No, we're not talking about a new album by Brian Eno. We're talking about a transformation coming to the alleyway between Cass Ave. and 2nd Ave and Willis and Canfield Streets. The alley's cracked concrete will be replaced with brick pavers and green infrastructure. 

According to Midtown Detroit, Inc. the Alley's transformation will begin later this month.

This will be Midtown's second green alley. The first is located between Prentis and Canfield off of 2nd Ave.

Source: Curbed Detroit

Read more here.

New Packard owner joins Freep Film Fest panel

Great to hear Fernando Palazuelo, who bought the Packard Plant in last year's foreclosure auction is in town and talking publicly about his massive redevelopment project.

Curbed Detroit reports that at last week's premier of the doc Packard: The Last Shift he told the audience that he will have a redevelopment plan for the site within three to four months. Sounds mighty good to us.

Read on here.

Site of former Kettering High to become 27-acre farm

Here's an item we call bittersweet, largely because some of us remember some great athletic programs, featuring prep basketball stars like Lindsay Hairston, Joe Johnson and Eric Money, at Kettering High in the 1970s. Time marches on nevertheless, as Curbed Detroit reports in this excerpt below:

One of Detroit's abandoned schools is about to begin a remarkable transformation. This summer, the east side's former Kettering High School will into a 27-acre urban farm known as the Kettering Urban Agricultural Campus.
According to the AP, the soon-to-be farm will provide food for the Detroit Public School System, while the old building itself will become afood processing facility. This summer will see the property prepared for growing food and the installation of eight hoop houses (green house-like structures).

Read more here.

New America Media: Immigrants key to Detroit revival

This report in New America Media, especpially the following three paragraphs, caught our eye last week. Who can doubt that welcoming immigrant communities to Detroit is an excellent idea? 

An excerpt:

While Detroit’s population has gone down by about 26 percent, the Latino population, particularly in the southeast side of the city, known as "Mexicantown," continues to rise, along with Latino-owned businesses.

Over the last two decades, according to census data, Detroit’s Latino population nearly doubled to 50,000 in 2010. Latinos in the city are also fairly young, with a median age of 24. 

According to an Associated Press report, more than $200 million in the past 15 years has been invested in Mexicantown, a few miles from downtown Detroit. This investment has attracted more restaurants, retail stores, and new residential buildings, including an $11 million condominium development.

Read more 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.

Freep's Gallagher to mayoral candidates: Don't forget Detroit Future City

In this recent piece in the Detroit Free Press, John Gallagher gives a bit of a healthy shove to both mayoral candidates, who don't appear to be embracing many of the strategies outlined by the Detroit Future City document.

An excerpt: 

Both candidates' plans for neighborhood revival nod to Detroit Future City, and both Duggan and Napoleon said in interviews that Detroit Future City has informed their own work. But Robin Boyle, chairman of the department of urban planning at Wayne State University, is among the experts interviewed by the Free Press who said neither candidate goes as far as Detroit Future City in envisioning innovative strategies for turning around Detroit.

Detroit Future City, for example, calls for concentrating any new development in the city's already more densely populated areas rather than scattering it throughout the city as often occurs today. And, most controversially, Detroit Future City advises allowing large areas of low density in distressed neighborhoods to convert to "green" uses, such as agriculture or reforestation or rainwater retention basins, rather than calling for re­development in those areas.

Read on here.
37 Sustainability Articles | Page: | Show All
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