Detroit turning vacant lots into farmland-

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION Detroit turning vacant lots into farmland-

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    Gabriel Hydrick

    Over the last several years, even well before the economic downturn, I always wondered whether land that had been glazed with acres of asphalt parking and topped with a large, hideous box building, or land that had been scraped and prepped for building that now lay vacant in a bed of weeds would one day return, for what ever reason, to its ‘natural’ state or used more for farming etc.


    Today I happened to come across my answer for the first time.   There are, especially now, so many acres of land that have building pads and streets carved out of the earth but now lie under a couple feet of weeds out here in the valley of California a.k.a. ‘the bread basket of the world’ It would be great to see them ‘naturalized’ or returned to farmland (at the expense of the greedy developer and irresponsible city/county).  It will be interesting to see the results, obstacles/rewards. What role does the LA have if any? What say you?


    For the record, don’t get me wrong I am a capitalist by nature and have no problem with smart development and growth and the use of our land for which we are blessed to have and use. But there is a line.  And it has been crossed way to often and by too great a distance and left some land in ruins by the greedy developers and irresponsible city and county officials for the sake of building another ‘cookie-cutter’, hideous, lack of any imagination and intelligence, ‘community’ or box store.


    I am a wiser steward than I am a capitalist. The pocket book is proof.    =0P


    I remember reading about this a year or two ago, but I didnt think they had implemented any of the plan at that time. I remember hearing about Flint, MI and entire city blocks going vacant and turning into public safety hazards.

    I think it’s a very compelling idea- reclaiming unfeasible urban development. Whtever the city officially decides to do could set a precedent for other cities facing inevitable contraction.

    I’m not sure how the economics should work. Should the city pay to reclaim and ‘clean up’ a developers work? I thin some here might say that the developer is not at fault if they were able to create a feasible community or business if even over a short term, but at what cost? If the land can be legitimately reclaimed and/or made sustainably productive I might be able to support the notion. It will be interesting to see how well we can truly reclaim/repurpose urban land and what role LA’s could play in the process.

    Trace One

    Vacant lots in Philly and New York have been co-opted by neighbors in a movement that started years ago,the
    “Community Garden” thing..In the eighties I had a nice 12×8 foot raised plot for my veggies in a W. Philly lot that the neighbors had reclaimed, removing the rubble brick by brick..
    Don’t know the legality of that lot, but I do know that Bette Midler famously bought all these reclaimed lots, in New York, perhaps in the nineties – the lots had been turned into neighborhood gardens, but when property owners were trying to oust the gardens, Bette Midler bought a bunch of them and donated the land to the gardeners..

    I grew all kinds of stuff..We also used ‘phil-organic’ good old reprocessed philly sewage sludge..

    Gabriel Hydrick

    Thanks Nick.
    From my perspective and experience… In my ‘small’ community, and immediately surrounding us, we have this problem and the city is absolutely partially responsible.

    Two examples- (My neighbor is a building inspector for the city. Through him I have stories to list that would make Santa Claus’ list seem like a small honey-due list)

    First. The city I live in was voted in 2006 as one of the best and fastest growing in the nation. One particular community that was being developed went through the city process so quick that the city missed an arterial connection to the main highway, that was supposed to be there. Now that has caused serious and very expensive ‘fixes’ with neighboring communities, commercial lots and a bypass that is going in now. The city is not totally at fault but they were so quick to get the next developer on board and approved they had many careless and needless oversights. Irresponsible.

    Second, is a tiny community, in the same city, that I worked on personally. To keep it short, we did precisely as the city wanted. (this project was a city funded housing complex) Then we waited. And waited. And waited. Finally they came back and said this isn’t what they wanted. They did this several times and expected us to make their revisions on our time and dime even when we pointed out the revisions were contradictory etc. Their inability to be decisive, have a vision and move forward has led to one of the lots as mentioned above in the middle of town.

    As for the developers, I have come across many, not all, but many where their ‘eyes were bigger than their appetites’. Irresponsible.

    Granted, if the city ‘cleans up’ behind the developer the cost would be passed on to the taxpayer. Last thing I want is more taxes but what these examples demonstrate is the delicate thread that weaves our profession, communities, ideals, motivations (individually and collectively) etc. and reiterates the need to vote qualified and responsible people into office. Thats a whole other topic though so I digress. (sp?)

    Say hi to beautiful Colorado for me.

    Gabriel Hydrick

    Thanks Trace.

    Great to hear of examples that have gone before. Sounds like some great fertilizer too! Recycled Philly Cheesesteaks!
    This stuff is relatively new to me as I don’t spend much time in big cities and have never lived in one. Closest I get is Sacramento and some, including myself, would argue that it isn’t a true big city.

    It seems something like this could work in smaller communities too so long as there was a private investor willing to donate.

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