Today the Detroit City Council approved the sale of 1,500 inner-city parcels to Hantz Farms, the brainchild of multi-millionaire financial-services executive and Detroit resident John Hantz. His operation claims it will plant the lots with 15,000 carbon-dioxide-absorbing hardwoods as part of a beautification project -- with an eye toward harvesting the trees as they mature. Detroit has lost a million residents over the last six decades, and it’s estimated that as much as 40 square miles of the city’s 139 square miles lie vacant or abandoned. Ownership of much of that land fell to the city through foreclosure.
Hantz claims he will clean up and maintain the overgrown land -- which is crisscrossed by city streets and will remain accessible to the public -- and demolish at least 50 blighted buildings. Hantz Woodlands, which bills itself “the world’s largest urban farm,” got a pretty sweet deal, paying $520,000 for 140 acres. That irked community activists who say that ordinary Detroit residents have had a much harder time buying empty lots in the city, and that Hantz got special treatment. The good news for potential community gardeners, if you can call it that: Hantz’s 1,500 parcels are a drop in the bucket. The city controls an estimated 60,000 vacant lots lost through foreclosure.
Image by iStock/Kngkyle2.
Reed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”