A recent study by the University of Detroit Mercy estimates that 30% of vacant parcels across the city amount to nearly 40 square miles–enough to fit the cities of San Francisco, Boston, and Manhattan in Detroit’s boundaries. The study’s author also believes that it will take another generation (at least) before there will be enough people in Detroit to repopulate these areas.
In the meantime, a variety of proposals are being put forth for how this land can be used: urban gardens, reforestation, playgrounds, new housing, shopping centers, and other plans by the Detroit Planning and Development Dept.
Yes, large and small neighborhoods across Detroit are filled with empty and abandoned parcels of land. Some belong to local residents and governments, and others have been purchased by outside banks and developers who see the severe Michigan economic hardship on families as a profit bonanza. A few more of the vacant lots have turned into dump sites for people who leave behind their bulk trash because of the city’s inferior trash and recycling program.
However, a good number of these plots have been adopted by adjacent neighbors. Many have already been turned into unofficial community gardens, extended yards, open BBQ picnic areas, and informal playgrounds. Some homeowners try to purchase these vacant residential lots but who has the extra money and time these days for that lengthy process?
The upcoming Detroit mayoral elections are going to be filled with many candidates claiming to have the best ideas for managing these neighborhood pieces of land. Many of the ideas will also be backed by banks and developers who know nothing about the people and history of the neighborhoods. MWRO believes local residents and neighborhoods should have a significant voice in how these vacant lots are used or maintained, and politicians should be ready to listen.