140-Acre Urban Forest to Take Root on Detroit’s Vacant Lots

Detroit, MI (October 25, 2013) – After five years, Detroit has reached agreement with a private investor to transform 1,500 vacant and blighted city-owned lots (more than 140 acres) into an urban forest. The developer will clear the land and plant 15,000 new trees, as well as care for and maintain them. It’s all part of the investor’s vision to attract new residents and consumers to the city.

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John Hantz, Hantz Farms

Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder approved the deal in mid-October. The buyer is Hantz Farms, which will pay more than $500,000 for the land. The company has committed to clearing 50 derelict structures, cleaning up the neighborhood trash, planting 15,000 trees, and mowing regularly. Tree planting will begin next fall.

While the purchase drew criticism last year, the benefits to a bankrupt city are clear. Hanz Farm will begin paying property taxes on the land, which has not generated any revenue for years. According to Hanz Farms, conditions in the neighborhood have been dire. The new owners have already begun cleanup, mowing and other improvements, which have cheered local residents.

The first phase of planting will be hardwood trees such as maple and oak, planted in straight rows. The Hantz properties will not be fenced, and streets will remain open for passage. After the property is fully cleared, at an estimated cost of over $600,000, the company will explore commercial options that might provide jobs for local residents such as orchards, maple syrup, and the cultivation of ornamental plants and shrubbery.

The focus, however, is on a design that will eventually generate revenue. According to Hanz Farms, the purpose of the investment is to make the neighborhood more livable and then recover the investment over time—as well as provide value to Detroit residents.

Sources:
A 140-Acre Forest Is About to Materialize in the Middle of Detroit,” The Atlantic Cities
Detroit To Create 140 Acre Urban Forest
Land buy for Detroit tree-growing project gets OK,” Businessweek