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Online tool to help Detroiters transform vacant lots

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Detroit has about 23 square miles of vacant land, and as city officials prepare to demolish more blighted homes each month, that number could reach as high as 30 square miles in coming years.

Now, there a tool to help Detroiters transform vacant land from neighborhood liabilities to landscaped assets.

On Monday, Detroit Future City is releasing its “Field Guide to Working With Lots,” a print and online tool that brings Detroiters through step-by-step instructions on how to transform vacant lots in their neighborhood. The field guide website is at http://dfc-lots.com/.

The user-friendly tool was developed by the Detroit Future City Implementation Office and a range of partners to help guide efforts to transform the vacant lots into a variety of landscapes. The guide offers step-by-step instructions, guidance and resources. DFC is a program of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp.

The lot designs — all 34 of them — were developed specifically for Detroit’s land conditions and with input from Detroiters, DFC officials said. They range from a clay soil meadow to dumping preventer to basement rain garden. Each design makes recommendations for the level of experience, upkeep and stormwater needed, as well as the cost.

Dan Kinkead, acting executive director of Detroit Future City’s Implementation Office, said the guide is a huge step toward empowering Detroiters with resources to help improve their quality of life and the city’s green infrastructure.

“It’s an equitable and actionable guidebook to improve our neighborhoods by improving physical appearance, contributing to a more resilient natural infrastructure, and stimulating job growth and economic opportunity,” he said.

Andrea Perkins, a community planner and engagement specialist for Black Family Development, a social service organization in Detroit, served as member of a stakeholder review group for the field guide. Perkins said Detroit Future City brought all elements, from design and content to implementation strategies, to the table for feedback from stakeholders.

Because of that engagement process, the field guide provides details that address and complement neighborhood characteristics across the city, she said.

The field guide website includes a “Discover Your Lot” quiz, a glossary of terms and the lot designs that can be downloaded. The website will also have images and updates on examples of other organizations, groups and residents working with land in Detroit, including examples of where designs from the field guide are being built.

The field guide is funded by the Erb Family Foundation, whose mission focuses on creating environmentally healthy communities in Metro Detroit and helping restore the Great Lakes Ecosystem.

John M. Erb, foundation president, said the field guide will help to cultivate Detroit’s inherent green infrastructure, reducing harmful impacts on the Great Lakes while working to stabilize neighborhoods.

“This begins to also integrate socially, economically and environmentally sustainable facets of private enterprise and individual stewardship. We’re excited to now see the guide translate into implementation,” he said.

The field guide print edition is available at the DFC Implementation Office, 2990 W. Grand Blvd., Suite 2, Detroit, and for reference at every Detroit Public Library branch across the city.

The DFC Implementation Office will have a number of engagement opportunities in the coming months, where community groups, suppliers and residents can learn how to use the field guide and train others to use the tool.

More information is at http://detroitfuturecity.com/-