Eminem's childhood home site acquired by Detroit Hives for bee sanctuary

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Detroit Hives is expanding its bees-ness with three new sanctuaries on the city's east side, one being the site of Eminem's childhood home.

Timothy Paule Jackson and fiancé Nicole Lindsey, co-founders and directors of Detroit Hives, started a nonprofit with a mission to turn vacant lots in the city into urban bee farms in 2017.

This week, ironically on National Urban Beekeeping Day, they were able to acquire three lots in the Osborn community for $3,000 with the help of the Detroit Black Farmerland Fund.

Nicole Lindsey, left, and Timothy Paule Jackson display a honey frame with bees at the Detroit Hives Sanctuary flower garden habitat on West Outer Drive. They plan to establish another habitat on three east-side lots.

One of the sites — 19946 Dresden St. — once home to Detroit's famed rapper, Marshall Mathers, will now serve as the Dresden Pollinator Habitat to support the Osborn and Conner Creek neighborhoods, the couple said.

Eminem's bungalow-style home was pictured blighted and boarded up on the cover of his eighth studio album, "Marshall Mathers LP 2," released in November 2013, the same year the home was demolished by the State of Michigan after a fire. It echoed his third studio album "Marshall Mathers LP," released in 2000, which featured a picture of Em on the steps of his childhood home on the cover.

"The new home will be built just like a beehive; we have to create a colony," said Jackson, 38. 

The majority of vacant sites they take over require several volunteer days to clean up broken glass, other debris and trash that's accumulated over the years, Jackson said. Once that's complete, they build a honeycomb structure, landscape a garden and then introduce the bees. Once established, they host educational sessions through farm tours at the site for community members to get involved.

"We have extra hives at several locations that we can relocate a colony and have those boxes ready (at Dresden) by middle of October," Jackson said. "Most residents want to see flowers, a place kids can go up and down safe and free from trash and blight, and that's what we want too."

This vacant lot at 19946 Dresden St. is the former childhood home of Eminem. Soon it will be the home of a flower garden habitat for bees.

Their long-term plan is to expand beyond the 5,000-square-feet Dresden site to the remaining parcels on the block. They've also acquired a nearby vacant commercial parking lot at 19791 Hoover, which will serve as a centralized hub for electrical vehicle charging stations and provide "green infrastructure" with an advanced stormwater drainage system. This will help prevent future floods from impacting the Osborn and Conner Creek communities, which were some of the hardest hit by the historic storms of June 2021. 

Detroit Hives plans to invest about $260,000 in building out the three sites and the parking lot. The majority of the cost involves renovating the parking lot. Establishing the hives take about $10,000 each. The State Fair and Hoover Pollinator Parkway renovation of 32,800 square feet is expected to be completed in July 2023.

The State Fair & Hoover Pollinator Parkway at 19791 Hoover St. is one of Detroit Hives' largest projects. In addition to honey and beeswax production from the apiary, the project will also serve as an electric vehicle charging station and stormwater system by July 2023.

Jackson said this is one of the first projects of this scale the organization is executing.

"We want to create a better future for the next generation of leaders, and it's been a problem in the highly-industrialized areas like this one that's surrounded by blight," Jackson said.

In 2016, Jackson said he discovered that local raw honey was able to cure a cold that no other remedy had. Since then, he and Nicole became fascinated with the little workers who produce honey.

Detroit Hives partners with the city and the Detroit Land Bank Authority to acquire lots that have been abandoned for a decade or more to transform them into educational apiaries. They've partnered with multiple organizations in the city, Wayne State University and Michigan State University.

With the three new locations, Detroit Hives has 14 sites producing wildflower honey.

Beekeeping is essential as it creates social, environmental and financial impact in a community, Jackson said.

"In short, it works to help create food security," Jackson said. "It's essential for growth and also guarantees to improve vegetation and food sources in a community. We're able to create jobs with these projects by preparing habitats, we hire local landscapers, work with contractors to build rainwater stations, but also the honey that we collect is used to sell to local stores or for local restaurants as well."

They received funds through the Detroit Black Farmerland Fund, a coalition of three organizations — The Detroit Black Food Security Network, Oakland Avenue Urban Farm and Keep Growing Detroit — on a mission to open doors for Black farmers. The coalition has issued 70 awards for land and infrastructure since launching in 2020.

Jackson, left, uses a smoker tool to calm the bees to allow Lindsey to pull a honey frame with bees from a hive.

"We noticed there were more White farmers who were successfully going through the process than Black farmers and we just wanted to make sure there was equity and that the Black farmers had the support they needed to get there as well," said Tepfirah Rushdan, co-director of Keep Growing Detroit.

Rushdan said Keep Growing Detroit has worked with Detroit Hives since the bee initiative applied for funding last year. Rushdan said she wasn't aware Detroit Hives was acquiring Eminem's homesite but thought it was a great effort. Applications are open online through Monday for farmers to acquire funding.

"The prices in the city for land are still at a point where we were afraid people were getting priced-out. The average cost of a lot is about $1,000 and all of our land fund is crowdfunded," she said. "This year, we opened on Juneteenth and usually the gardener selects their land. It can take several months to acquire funding. We're excited for them."

Eminem couldn't be reached for comment on this story, but the Detroit Hives directors hope he'll see the swarm soon.

"It doesn't feel like work when you do what you love," Jackson said. "We want to be a part of revitalizing our city and show others they can too, because Detroit is the place to bee."

l-r, Timothy Paule Jackson, 38, and his fiancé Nicole Lindsey, 39, stands at the Detroit Hives Sanctuary flower garden habitat for bees on Outer Drive W. July 22, 2022, Detroit, MI.


Twitter: @SarahRahal_