After nearly five years of planning, a large-scale attempt to turn a big chunk of Detroit blight into an urban forest is now underway. The purchase of more than 1,500 vacant city-owned lots on the city’s lower east side – a total of more than 140 acres – got final approval from Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder earlier in October.
A wealthy resident, John Hantz, has committed in phase 1 to clearing 50 derelict structures, cleaning up years of trash and overgrown brush, planting 15,000 trees, and maintaining regular mowing. Future plans include a farm growing local food.
Hartz Farms president Mike Score, who is leading the for-profit enterprise, says the residents were scared to walk home alone.
“The thought of a company willing to come invest in that neighborhood, remove the blight and plant trees in rows…They can’t believe that could actually happen, said Score. “They thought they were stuck there.”
“Ten years from now you’re going to look and say, ‘Wow, what a nice place to live. I think I would like to live there.'”