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Working To Replace Blight With Beauty

July 31 2012 | 2 comments

When you say urban gardening, many people think tomatoes, cucumbers and squash.  But the biggest agriculture project on the drawing board for Detroit has nothing to do with vegetables.

Big changes could be coming to the lower east side of Detroit.  In the neighborhoods to the east and west of Indian Village there are dozens of empty lots and abandoned homes.  They are unsightly, they can be unsafe and they are unprofitable.


One local company wants to transform 170 acres of the city.  Hantz Farms --part of the Hantz Group — has big plans for abandoned properties in Detroit.  Mike Score is president of Hantz Farms.  He told us, “We bought these trees, they were a couple years old and they’ll grow about one foot per year in height and they’ll grow about 1/3 inch in diameter.  So its about a 40 to 60 year period before these trees would be ready to harvest.”

Score says Hantz Farms will clean up the sites, tear down the vacant structures, remove the brush from the alleyways, cut the grass, remove the garbage and then plant the area with mixed hardwoods.

Why hardwood trees?

Score says, “If you’re talking about growing food crops, there are a lot of issues related to food production in the city that neighbors just aren’t ready for on a larger scale.  People have concerns about how pests would be managed in food crop production.  Then there’s also the question of whether or not soils are contaminated, how safe the food would be to eat.”

To give the city, and neighbors, an idea of what a tree farm would be like, a few lots near Hantz’ offices on Mount Elliott were planted with about 120 oak trees.  Then they planted a few apple and redbud trees between the sidewalk and the street to bloom in the spring.

But before the trees were planted, the Hantz crew had to  remove 430 tires and 350 cubic yards of garbage from the lots.

According to Score, “When the property was city owned, the grass was tall, when people had large items they normally would have to pay to dispose of, they would just throw them out into the middle of the field.  But once we got it cleared up people have stopped dumping out in the neighborhood and they partner with us now.

The final plan would call for the planting of 70-thousand trees and a 5-million dollar investment by Hantz Farms over the first three years.

Hantz is working with the city to finalize sale of the land.

Currently residents won’t have to move.  And they may have the option of buying land themselves

Current zoning regulations would have to be changed to allow for eventual sale of the trees.  But Score says they’re willing to take a chance on that because their first goal is helping the city, “The primary purpose was to make communities more livable, to improve quality of life in neighborhoods and its a long term commitment that the Hantz group is making to Detroit.

Or, as Mike Score likes to say: To replace blight with beauty.

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  1. Katy T July 31, 2012

    Great plan for this land. Way to go Hantz Group


  2. James R. Herman September 5, 2012

    The fact that we hear the phrase “protect property values” so often just confirms that the housing market is both dysfunctional and irrational. While cars depreciate in value, a properly priced home that is kept up should only increase in value at most at the rate of inflation. All the people struggling against eviction would be better served by just walking away. You need to think about saving for retirement rather than flushing any more money down the 30-yr mortgage toilet. You should have the right to live in an affordable home. Housing is a human right. The trouble is affordable homes have been unjustly zoned out. That is an unconscionable violation against your constitutional inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is where the fight lies. This is what needs to be corrected and sooner rather than later.

    End exclusionary zoning and there never will be another mortgage crisis again. End exclusionary zoning and you’ll be able to buy a house as easily and cheaply as you buy a car. It’s really that simple. The housing market is not free so homes are not accurately priced. I went from paying $3,720/yr in lot rent to a mobile home park to paying $662/yr in property taxes once I was allowed to place my singlewide on a lot and pay property taxes like everyone else. I lived at Little Valley Estates near 8 Mile & Middlebelt (near Detroit). I was paying $310/mo in lot rent for a 26 ft by 60 ft lot. That extrapolates to $8,656/acre/month. After I lost my job at 59 in Oct 2008 I just retired (didn’t even apply for unemployment). I was able to retire because I paid off my singlewide in less than 2 yrs. So I didn’t flush a lot of money down the 30-yr mortgage toilet. If I had borrowed say $100K at 5% and paid it back over 30 yrs then I would have had to pay back $193K. My lifetime income was only $699K.

    I lived in apartments for 20 yrs before buying my singlewide in Aug of 1991. By the time I moved my singlewide in May 2009 I had paid over $55K in lot rent over 18 yrs. I estimate that I could’ve saved about $45K if I just would’ve been allowed to place my singlewide on a lot and pay property taxes just like everyone else. But Farmington Hills, MI says your home has to be at least 24 ft wide and conform to existing housing. My singlewide was only 14 ft wide. I would’ve had to move 167 miles further north if I wanted to stay in Mi. Instead I moved my singlewide 300 miles south to a warmer climate about 55 miles east of Cincinnati.

    We have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In order to have life you need the necessities of life such as shelter. You should be free to choose that shelter. So the president is derelict in his duty to protect and defend the constitution. But he’s just another Pontius Pilate politician. Pilate knew Jesus was innocent but when the crowd yelled ‘Crucify Him’ then that’s what the crowd got. Everyone knows exclusionary zoning is wrong. I’d like the crowd, including Occupy etc, to stop supporting exclusionary zoning. Aren’t you tired of being sheared of your wealth like sheep? At least I was able to move my home. I didn’t have to leave it behind for someone to tear it down.

    240,000 people left Detroit between 2000 and 2010. They left but the houses didn’t. It would be a lot easier to vote with your feet if your house could be moved too. Building a singlewide is much less complicated than building a car. So Detroit or Flint could easily build a quality formaldehyde-free singlewide. A 30 footer would be about 360 sq ft. Need more room? Just buy two and connect them with a hallway. When baby comes along then add a third. When baby goes to college then his/her unit could go too as housing for life. Motor homes are very easy to move. So are travel trailers and all the other things you can see at an RV and camper show. Here’s a link to my face book page where you can view pictures of my singlewide. As you will see, it’s a neat little home. Just copy and paste it into your browser. All my photos are public.


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