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The Design Observer explores the urban ecology of Detroit and other cities

While many look at the overgrown grass and a resurgent swamps sometimes found on Detroit's vacant land as blight, the Design Observer points out that these occurences are the result of a complex urba ecology.

Author Peter Del Tredici, associate professor in practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and author of Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast: A Field Guide, makes the following observation:

"While Detroit is clearly a tragic story from the socioeconomic perspective, it is a paradise for spontaneous vegetation."

It's always good to look on the bright side of things.

Regardless, this essay is a fascinating read for anyone interested in the ecology of cities.

Read more in the Design Observer.

Detroit Bikes partners with Bicycle Technologies International for U.S. distribution

Detroit Bikes, LLC, and Bicycle Technologies International recently announced that they have begun working together to bring Detroit Bikes to over 4000 of BTI's clients.
 
Bicycle Technologies International is one of the largest distributors in North America, with over 23,000 unique bicycle parts, accessories and clothing items representing over 300 premium brands. BTI supplies local bike shops across the country, bringing high performance products from around the globe. BTI celebrated its 20th Anniversary in 2013 and looks forward to growth in the next 20 years by partnering with brands that are committed to fostering the cycling community with great products.
 
Detroit Bikes, LLC is a bicycle manufacturing company in west Detroit, marking the return of high-volume frame manufacturing to the United States. Each bicycle frame is built from 4130 chromoly steel tubing cut, coped, welded and painted in Detroit Bikes' 50,000 square-foot factory. This location has the capacity to produce 40,000 bikes a year.
 
Detroit Bikes seeks to encourage cycling by making an accessible, enjoyable bicycle while continuing Detroit's legacy of quality manufacturing and design. Its headquarters and factory are located at 13639 Elmira Road, Detroit. For more information, go here.


Very Zen: Raw food rules at Hamtown's Buddhist center

When thinking of food options in Hamtramck the list is most impressive: ethnic choices (South Asian, Middle Eastern, Polish, Balkan) abound, not to mention new kitchens at Rock City Eatery and Revolver rolling out creative takes on American classic dishes.

But don't forget the café at the Detroit Zen Center (tucked away in a residential neighborhood at the corner of Casmere and Mitchell streets, one block east of Jos, Campau), says Melody Baetens of the Detroit News.

An excerpt: 

The café is rustic, clean and warm, and can seat a few dozen. Diners can choose to sit at low tables on a raised, heated platform, or in traditional tables and chairs.

Food is cooked in an open kitchen, the same used to make the center’s line of Living Zen Organics food, which includes kale chips, fresh kale salad, raw granola, raw brownies and flax crackers. (Living Zen Organic products can be found at Eastern Market, Western Market in Ferndale, Honey Bee market in Detroit, Plum Markets and healthy food stores across Metro Detroit.)

Read on here.

Green builders raising funds for AFTERHOUSE project

We ran into people behind this project at Eight & Sand last week and were thoroughly intrigued and impressed. They are working on a house in the NoHam neighborhood near the Power House, Hinterlands Detroit and other cool neighborhood projects, converting a irrepairably damaged structure into a productive, sustainable greenhouse.

Here's more info: 

The process for building AFTERHOUSE is quite simple. First the damaged parts of the house are removed while preserving the foundation. Then a stairwell is excavated down to the basement level. After that we build a simple shed-style greenhouse covering the existing basement foundation, rotating the slope to face due south and maximizing solar exposure. We then construct an insulated platform facing the street, maintaining the cultural and urban character of the original house porch while guarding against temperature fluctuations. Lastly we build a series of planters into the insulated platform to grow summer crops and shade the greenhouse from the summer heat.

$12,000 will pay for the demolition of the house, utility disconnections and permitting fees, building materials to construct the greenhouse such as lumber, polycarbonate, insulation, siding and roofing material, subcontracting fees for specialty trades such as electrical and plumbing, as well as plants and growing material.

If you'd like the help this project get funded, go here.

Public Pool to host fundraiser for Hamtown Farms

Last week, we reported on Hamtown Farms' efforts to raise money to keep its green investment moving forward on Lumpkin St. just south of Holbrook in Hamtramck.
 
Michael Davis, who launched the community-based project in 2012, is attempting to raise $10,000 to purchase the lots where his productive garden grows. The lots are presently owned by the city of Hamtramck. Neighboring Kowalski Sausage has said it is also interested in purchasing the property.
 
This week, the Farms' allies in Hamtramck are stepping up to help support the project. 
 
On Wednesday (that's tomorrow, Nov. 13), Rock City Eatery servers will be asking patrons if they'd like to give $3 to the farm. If they say yes, $3 will be added to their bill. The truly fab Rock City is at 11411 Jos. Campau, one block north of Caniff.
 
On Friday, Nov. 15 a benefit dinner is being held at the Hamtramck Moose Lodge #1670. The lodge is at 9421 Conant (that's a block and a half north of Holbrook). Dinner starts at 6 p.m. $10 donation.

And on Saturday, Nov. 16, Public Pool (3309 Caniff, Hamtramck) hosts a presentation by Davis, who will talk about the Hamtown Farms project and its current campaign to raise funds. Also on the bill are Hamtramck Mayor Karen Majewski and Model D Green City diarist Matthew Piper, who wrote this piece last year that included Hamtown Farms.
 
The event begins with a reception at 6:30 p.m. An art show called Cut Paste Borrow Burn, featuring work by Hamtramck collage artists Anne Harrington Hughes and Christina Galasso, is currently up. Viewing of the exhibit is encouraged. Expect good beer, good wine and good snacks. Invited guests begin their talk at around 7 p.m. Donations will be accepted throughout the evening.

Hamtown Farms raising funds to save green investment

Last summer, we ran this great piece that included Hamtown Farms as part of our Green City Diaries series. We have followed the efforts of urban farmer Michael Davis before and after the piece. And now we report a potential hiccup in the progress of this noble project. Under emergency finacial management, Hamtramck was about to sell the city-owned land to neighboring Kowalski Sausage, which has designs on converting it into a "a parking lot or a buffer." (Now hold on, Kowalski, we love your kielbasa and assorted lunch meats, not to mention you guys have the best neon sign in the entire region, but a parking lot vs. a productive urban farm that has already planted myriad seeds of cultural growth in the community is simply no contest.)

An excerpt from Eclecta: 

The good news is that Hamtown Farms has received what Michael Davis is calling "mind blowing support." They have created a fundraising page at the crowd-funding website Indiegogo. It is their hope that they will raise enough money to be able to outbid any other groups in the auction, including Kowalski Sausage, and then own the property outright.

One more thing: this is a major opportunity lost by Kowalski Sausage. They could be the good guys here, the good corporate citizen that made an investment in their community to make it a better place to live. Instead, they have chosen not to do this and, in fact, to do the exact opposite. They told Emergency Manager Square that they didn’t have any specific plans for the land, they "just wanted to have it." They told Fox News Detroit it would be turned into a "parking lot or a buffer." What could have been a tremendous contribution to the community is ending up being a public relations disaster for Kowalski Sausage. If they see turning this remarkable farm space into a parking lot as somehow a good thing will benefit them, they are decidedly wrong. It's hard to imagine why they think this is a good approach. Read more here.

Fundraising continues until Nov. 19 here.

DTE Energy partners with Eastern Market on $750K social space

Fabulous news from the ever-growing-in-all-the-right-ways Eastern Market, which is rapidly becoming exactly what it promises to be: a 24-hour neighborhood with food, social and cultural options galore.

An excerpt from the News:

"The DTE Energy Plaza will serve as a convivial gathering place to create a stronger market, and we are very grateful for the DTE Energy Foundation’s generous support and naming of this new community asset," Dan Carmody, president of the Eastern Market Corp., said in a statement. "The DTE Energy Plaza will be a welcoming place where people will gather to enjoy each other and the bounty of Eastern Market."

In June, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. awarded the farmers market, which is open year-round on Saturdays and on Tuesdays in the summer and early fall, a $1 million grant for the renovation. The project has received funding from other foundations, corporate sponsors and the city, which is supporting it through bond revenue valued at $1.5 million and a community development block grant for $330,000.

Read on here.

Freep's Gallagher to mayoral candidates: Don't forget Detroit Future City

In this recent piece in the Detroit Free Press, John Gallagher gives a bit of a healthy shove to both mayoral candidates, who don't appear to be embracing many of the strategies outlined by the Detroit Future City document.

An excerpt: 

Both candidates' plans for neighborhood revival nod to Detroit Future City, and both Duggan and Napoleon said in interviews that Detroit Future City has informed their own work. But Robin Boyle, chairman of the department of urban planning at Wayne State University, is among the experts interviewed by the Free Press who said neither candidate goes as far as Detroit Future City in envisioning innovative strategies for turning around Detroit.

Detroit Future City, for example, calls for concentrating any new development in the city's already more densely populated areas rather than scattering it throughout the city as often occurs today. And, most controversially, Detroit Future City advises allowing large areas of low density in distressed neighborhoods to convert to "green" uses, such as agriculture or reforestation or rainwater retention basins, rather than calling for re­development in those areas.

Read on here.

MSNBC drops in on city's green scene

Sure, we all know urban farming has been a big part of the Detroit redevelopment narrative for some time. But it's still awfully nice to see national media paying attention and updating the story. Make that multiple stories.

Check out MSNBC's report here.

Cadillac Square getting ready for summer market

There is more shopping possible in downtown now than in recent memory. We like the pop-up to permanent vibe on Woodward and we like the use of Cadillac Square, just east of Campus Martius, for more retail this summer.

An excerpt from the Detroit News:

The retail market, simply called "The Market," will take place every fourth Friday and Saturday in June, July and August. According to the Campus Martius website, it will "feature an area dedicated to dynamic retailers, artists, designers, crafters, vintage/antique dealers, craft-prepared food products, and distinctive apparel.

Nice. We'll meet you downtown next month. More here.

'Hands on' Model D partner Mode Shift gets Freep's attention

In a recent story on the impact of foundations on local economics and culture, a number of Model D's partners were mentioned, including Knight and the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan, both of whom lend support to the Mode Shift Move Together blog.

An excerpt from the Detroit Free Press:

The most recent example is Mode Shift, an effort funded by the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and the Knight Foundation to promote healthy lifestyles by getting people more active -- bicycling, walking and more.

The Community Foundation this year launched a new website called Wearemodeshift.org, an interactive portal that gradually will offer trail maps for bikers, information about bike-friendly retailers, and a debate forum on all manner of topics related to outdoor activity.

Read more here.

Core77 blogger hits Detroit, swoons over people and place

We were trolling for Detroit media love when we chanced upon this beauty of a blog. Not much more introduction needed.

An excerpt:

True to form, DC3 introduced me to Peggy Brennan, co-founder of the Green Garage. The converted Model T showroom serves as a demonstration of down-to-earth sustainability (no pun intended), as well as a business incubator (everyone incubates these days) and an advisor on integrating sustainable practices for any interested member of the community. Brennan and her husband, along with 200 volunteers, spent two years designing how to best renovate the showroom and looked to the Passivhaus for inspiration. With 19-inches of insulation and triple-glazed windows, the Green Garage only costs $300 to heat for a year.

Read the entire travelog here.

Next step forward for urban ag: soil remediation

What to do when you want to farm in the city but the ground needs a little help to get well? Soil remediation might be the answer, reports David Sands in HuffPost Detroit.

Ann excerpt:

"This is all very experimental," he said, "We figured it was a decent spot and it was a safe place to practice, he said. "We'll have things like bonesett, like yarrow and goldenrod and perennial sunflowers, which are all dynamic accumulators of different toxins."

Those plants remove hazardous materials such as heavy metals from the ground and hold them in their bodies, making it easy for people to dispose of dangerous substances through incineration or placement in a special landfill.

Read it all here.

'Motion to Makeover' project transforms Southwest park

Any news about people volunteering to clean up and "makeover" a Detroit city park is good news. All the better is that the project is being headed by some law students. 

An excerpt:

The 313 Project, started in 2009 by then first-year law students Aisa Villarosa, Erika Riggs and Juliana Rivera as a community-service student group, offers free legal clinics to underserved groups. But they also spend time each month with their Motion to Makeover project, which took on a major project -- Southwest Detroit's 26-acre Romanowski Park.

What started as a casual idea to work on a park took root when the group decided on Romanowski and approached Home Depot about getting materials, not expecting it to turn into a $16,500 grant from the company's foundation.

Read the rest of the story in HuffPost Detroit here.

Recovery Park goal includes indoor urban ag, horse stables, neighborhood employment

Gary Wozniak sees himself as a food systems developer and a job creator. And no, he's not running for president but rather looking to redevelop a 3-square-mile area on Detroit's East Side into self-sustaining farms with their own production and distribution systems. Ambitious enough, we think.

An excerpt from The Hub:

Recovery Park started as leaders from SHAR (Self Help Addiction Rehabilitation) were looking to create jobs for people with barriers to employment. Looking at the talent pool and the physical resources Detroit abundantly has--land, road infrastructure, access to fresh water--the natural conclusion was urban farming and food system development.

The difference between Recovery Park and other urban farming/ urban redevelopment programs is in both size and scale. While most community farming produces few jobs that are often dependent on grant funding, Recovery Park’s model aims toward something more self-sustainable.

"We’re taking a look more at commercial indoor agriculture so that the jobs are year round," Wozniak says. "We can get three, maybe four, growing seasons working indoors."

Intriguing stuff, yes? Read more here.
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