Posted: Dec 14, 2012, 11:11 AM
Midwest Moderator - Editor
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Big Mitten
I had no idea this program had been so successful or that it was even really going on in this scale. This seems like something excellent going on under the radar that could be a piece of the puzzle to solving the vacant land issue until things pick back up.
Ndue Lucaj, 51, looks Thursday over the fence he built after buying the vacant lot next to his Detroit home. He said buying the city-owned lot for $200 "was a good deal; I would've paid a lot more to clean up that eyesore." / Kimberly P. Mitchell/Detroit Free Press
Detroit sells city-owned vacant lots to neighbors, cleaning up neighborhoods
By Bill Laitner | Detroit Free Press
December 13, 2012
Saying, "It's nice to be somewhere that's positive," Detroit Mayor Dave Bing got some respite from the city's fiscal crisis Thursday when he stood with residents of southwest Detroit to announce that he would expand on a success -- a 9-month-old effort that expedites purchases of vacant city-owned lots by adjoining homeowners.
It discourages dumping while making skinny urban lots swell to resemble those in suburbia, city officials said.
"I'm pleased to report that almost 100 vacant lots have been purchased," Bing said.
"Now, we're going to expand this to a new area that I'm very familiar with because, for about 30 years, that's where my businesses were," Bing said. His reference was to the North End neighborhood, just north of Midtown, where Bing once operated the Bing Group, a conglomerate of auto suppliers.
The program -- which city planning managers said now covers about 5% of the city, and that soon will roughly double in size -- can't cover 100% of the city because "our staff has been cut dramatically (and) we just don't have the people" to handle a city-wide program, Bing said.
The effort, called White Picket Fence, puts empty lots back on the tax rolls, gives homeowners space for gardens and parking, beautifies neighborhoods and even provides $200 in free fencing or landscaping material -- paid for by Charter One bank, said Brad Dick, Detroit's general services director.
Under the program, homeowners can quickly buy a vacant lot that adjoins their property for $200, avoiding the need for approval by the Detroit City Council -- a lengthy procedure and usually mandatory for sales of city-owned land, Dick said.
A new sponsor -- Fifth Third Bank -- will pay for $25,000 in gift cards for fencing to launch the new phase in the North End neighborhood, Bing spokeswoman Daphne Hughes said. The North End is bounded on the east by I-75, on the west by Woodward, on the north roughly by Chicago Boulevard, and south by East Grand Boulevard.
For homeowner Vicki Chavez and her family in southwest Detroit, buying the lot next door turned the family into landscapers.
There were so many weeds growing there that her grandchildren called it "the forest," Chavez said at Bing's announcement. Since buying the lot last summer, she and her husband removed 45 bags of garbage and weeds -- "lots of auto parts and beer cans," Chavez said.
"Now, it's going to be a yard with a garden," she said.
Things are going to be empty around these parts for awhile, but this at least allows this space to be maintained and gives neighbors a bargaining chip when development comes back to these neighborhoods. At the very least, this is better than the lots being owned by out-of-city/out-of-state absentee landlords who often can't be found. At least now if the lots aren't maintained, they know who to find. I'm also glad to see this coming to the North End...it's where I was born.
Where The Trees Are The Right Height