People look at Detroit as a dying city. The city’s numerous character flaws, like urban sprawl, crime, and architectural decay, give the city an appearance of failure. To some optimists, however, these problems provide the perfect time for substantial change within the city. A solution for change is arriving through discussions of a shift in industry focus.For decades, Detroit’s industry leader has been automotive, but, recent economic downfalls are causing a necessary shift to urban agriculture. Urban agriculture is not new. Case studies on urban agriculture can be dated back hundreds of years, thus proving the idea to be successful. Idea developers have devised many theories for implementing urban agriculture into Detroit’s current infrastructure.

In understanding the possibility for this change, one must realize that all cities change dynamically. Change is vital for a city’s growth and economic success. Detroit posses the potential to change from a dilapidated city into a green, thriving, cool city. Urban agriculture in Detroit will be used as a community redevelopment and revitalization solution. Currently, 65,000 lots in Detroit are vacant and publicly owned. These lots have little to no purpose in their current state and could therefore be transformed into a community garden space. The garden space can engage youth, thus providing an outlet for learning and constructive extracurricular activities. Cultivating the community gardens contributes organic and locally produced food sources, jobs, and aesthetic appeal to the urban fabric.

The community garden will be a space that brings growth and a sense of place through equal space for farming, art, performance space, and relaxation. It is vital the garden creates visual appeal. Visual appeal will bring people to the garden. A sense of pride develops from a beautiful community which changes the character of the neighborhood. Including community participation will heighten the sense of belonging and strength of community. These “productive landscapes” create jobs that produce needed products.

Detroit’s economic development and beautification depends upon a crucial change in industry. As the cost of transportation and dependency upon technology increases, city are becoming a localized port of necessity. Already, people desire a job close to home. A job that will provide income to feed a family, entertain, support a home, and  allow for financial independence. Society strives for sustainable solutions to gas usage, water retention, land usage, and basic life requirements. Urban agriculture satisfies both personal and societal goals.

Through urban agriculture, Detroit can develop and become an educational hub. Roof top gardens will retain water and make for improved air quality, aesthetic appeal, and combined use of space. Cisterns can be developed in the urban plan to allow for easy water access. Proper building orientation can create various growing capabilities for things like common vegetables, orchards, or sunflowers. Through educating not only urban developers, but also horticulturists, business builders, investors, and various business owners on the possibilities of Detroit’s growth, the city will become the leader in the newest city trend.

Detroit’s current abandoned state provides the city with the most potential for growth. The open spaces allow for adaptable re-use. It is true that there are economic, social and regulatory concerns with this proposal. The concerns, however, are common for all new propositions. Singularly, the publicity Detroit will receive for being the first of its kind will make the idea worth the struggles. Additionally, the community benefits will return the city to Detroit’s full potential. People have the ability to work together as a community, and the community will work with professionals to make the city beautiful, functional, economically capable, and overall, an enjoyable place to live.

Samantha Smigelski
Contributing Author

Samantha Smigelski is a writing and architectural contributor, and also an Intermediate Technical Designer.