After a three-year fight, West Village community garden buys land from city

The group behind West Village community garden Shipherd Greens has successfully purchased its land from the city of Detroit. Though the $1,050 price for the land may seem modest, it's a big victory for Shipherd Greens, LLC, which was formed with the purpose of purchasing the lots. Efforts to purchase the land began three years ago and the group's offers have been rejected by the city a number of times since.

Shipherd Greens is located at the corner of Shipherd and Agnes streets in West Village. The all-organic community garden produces a range of produce, including kale, tomatoes, collards, apples, and grapes.

Though the city had no issue with Shipherd Greens operating the two city lots as a community garden through the Adopt-A-Lot program, it took three years of pushing by the group before the city sold them the land. One of the lead organizers of the garden, Rosie Sharp, says they were originally turned down because of zoning issues. After enlisting the help of some local political leaders to pressure the Planning and Development Department and personally calling every other week, Sharp and her community now own the land they've been caring for since Lisa Richter first started the garden in 2006.

The prospect of losing the land was a major driver for Sharp. Having moved to West Village from New York City in 2009, Sharp says the experience of watching her former New York City neighborhood quickly gentrify kept her motivated. While she thinks all of the businesses opening in West Village are great for the neighborhood, Sharp doesn't want to see the community garden get swallowed up by the recent surge in development there.

"Sometimes you worry," says Sharp. "With urban agriculture, it can be tempting for people to reduce it to a monetary value, but the real value is kind of hidden. It's about spending time outside with your community and being connected to the earth."

It's important, she says, that the city recognizes the people who have been caring for their neighborhoods since before the current wave of development. For example, at $1,050 for two lots, the city charged Shipherd Greens nearly twice per lot compared to what Hantz Woodlands paid for a lot, which was around $300 each.

As a result of her experience, Sharp is organizing a series of Land Forum workshops where city residents can learn how to purchase vacant land in Detroit. The third Land Forum Workshop is from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 18 at Repair the World Detroit, 2701 Bagley St. 

Source: Rosie Sharp, a lead organizer of Shipherd Greens
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.