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Lot by Lot, Detroit Developers Plant the Seeds for an Urban Forest

The long-awaited urban renewal project Hantz Woodlands comes another step closer to becoming a reality.



Five years ago, venture capitalist John Hantz first proposed converting abandoned lots in Detroit’s decaying East Side into an urban forest. This month, Hantz Woodlands handed over a check for $431,000 to the City of Detroit. The money is payment for vacant urban land that Hantz and his supporters say will become a mini forest in the years to come.


While some Detroiters welcome the move, others are less optimistic about the for-profit project. The Detroit News has cautioned:


“Will the trees ever grow tall enough to be harvested? Will they be replaced by some other crops, like Christmas evergreens or broccoli, as urban agriculture gets more common? Or will the trees provide a pleasant green canopy until Hantz can eventually sell the land to a developer? None of that future is yet clear.”


President of Hantz Woodlands, Mike Score, is investing his time and a career change to his belief in a permanent greening for Detroit. Formerly an agricultural expert at Michigan State University, Score now spends his days clearing away old tires, abandoned boats and household trash.


So far, the project has amassed 1,600 lots, including 40 abandoned houses slated to be demolished. Soon, Hantz Woodlands will plant 15,000 three-foot tall hardwood trees across a combined area of 150 acres. In preparation for this phase, residents adjacent to project lots were granted the option of first purchase; about 100 landowners exercised this right.


Meanwhile, Hantz defends his project. According to the Detroit News, the investor “believes that the city needs for-profit ventures: It needs people like him to pay cash for land, pay taxes on the land and eventually imbue worthless land with value.”


A video about Hantz' urban forest plan from Hantz Farms:



An update on the Hantz Woodlands project from WXYZ Detroit: