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US (MI): Flower farms transform vacant lots on Detroit’s east side

Nancy Weigandt and Tom Milano of the Garden Detroit had been cleaning up vacant land as volunteers for years. Both experienced gardeners, they understood the potential for turning blighted land into a place of beauty, and started working with the Land Bank to acquire vacant lots. They intended on planting vegetables, but neighbors worried they might attract rats, so now flowers create a sanctuary on the lots on Manistique Street.

A few blocks away, a vacant house sat on the corner lot next to the purple house at 313 Newport Street, where Milano has lived for 30 years. Weigandt notes that dogs took up residence on the upper level of the vacant house at one point. After the land bank demolished the house, Wiegandt and Milano bought the vacant lot in order to create a new garden. They started a non-profit—the Garden Detroit—and received an implementation grant from the Kresge Foundation to plant non-edibles.

The group also sells cut flowers at many local retailers, hosts floral workshops and events, and helps others plan sanctuary gardens.


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