The City of Detroit is actively managing and planning for its vacant land resources. At the start of 2014, Detroit counted 40,000 vacant houses; after demolitions, rehabs or sales, 22,000 vacant houses remained in 2019. Putting land into productive, community based use is part of the City’s long-term solution.
Detroit’s vacant land revitalization strategies have attracted widespread attention in recent years, and have renewed interest in reprogramming underutilized vacant city lots into community gardens, play spaces, and urban agriculture projects among many others. Many residents and neighborhood organizations have led the charge in stewarding vacant lands to preserve their community’s character and strengthen neighborhood bonds. Yet, the guidelines and processes can be difficult to navigate, preventing people from participating thoroughly or protecting their investments. Agency supported Asakura Robinson to streamline and visualize the process and standards for Detroit’s Land Based Projects program.
The project process featured an intentional community engagement strategy that posited that the current users are the experts and began with those already actively engaged in stewarding land based projects on vacant city-owned lands. Working with the City, the Detroit Land Bank, Asakura Robinson, Keep Growing Detroit, and the Detroit Collaborative Design Center, Agency walked through the process with those stakeholders to understand how it could be improved and where standards and communication could evolve or be made clearer. Agency developed a diagrammatic guide and narrative titled ‘Zoning 101’ to visually translate complex planning language to residents who are interested in undertaking their own land based projects and the critical rights and relationships to consider as projects are implemented.
The project resulted in a series of online and physical guides that walk a person or organization through vacant land acquisition, permitting and program maintenance to ensure the Land Based Projects can grow and thrive.Project Images