Hantz Farms started out as a proposal to cultivate 20,000 acres. It later morphed into a Christmas Tree farm as it became clear that local and state law would make urban cultiviation on a large scale difficult. There also was a short-term plan to plant 3.5 acres with 1,000 oak saplings as of August 2011.
2012 tree farm plans
Facing a lack of proper zoning and more obstacles, Hantz changed the proposal to be a 140-acre tree farm. Hantz is still agreeing to clean and maintain the lots, as well as demolish houses. The Detroit community has been divided about this new proposal, with community development corporations facing off against food justice groups. Several loud, anger-filled community meetings have been held. Opponents are using the #hantzoff Twitter hashtag.
Proponents of the 2012 Hantz Farms proposals argue that the project will bring unused land back on the tax rolls. They also say that several other investors (notably Dan Gilbert) and less reputable speculators have bought large swathes of land in Detroit without this level of public outcry.
A number of groups support the project:
- The City of Detroit has been explaining the process, but has not come out loudly in favor of it.
- Joan Moss, Executive Director, Church of the Messiah Housing Corporation;
- Sr. Cathey DeSantis, Executive Director, Detroit Catholic Pastoral Alliance;
- Eunice Peek, Executive Director, Fellowship Nonprofit Housing;
- Jeanine Hatcher, Executive Director, Genesis HOPE Community Development Corporation;
- Rev. Patrick Gahagen, Pastor, Immanuel Lutheran Church;
- Josh Elling, Executive Director, Jefferson East Business Association;
- Brian Hurttienne, Executive Director, The Villages Community Development Corporation
- Maggie DeSantis, President of the Warren/Conner Development Coalition.
Opponents of the proposals argue that the project has a number of downsides and that the sale of so much land to one individual violates the public trust. They say that residents haven't been offered a chance to buy the land themselves. Some have, through the City's adjacent lot program, but not on a large scale. They also note that there is not a formal development agreement with community benefits. They dislike commercial agriculture practices, like toxic pesticides. They also are skeptical that Hantz will use the land for a tree farm, and not some more nefarious purpose in the future -- which could include displacing residents.
- Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership
- Building Movement Detroit, member Detroit Food Justice Task Force
- Creative Community Pathways, member Detroit Food Justice Task Force
- Coalition Against Police Brutality
- Detroit Black Community Food Security Network
- Detroit Evolution
- East Michigan Environmental Action Council
- Feedem Freedom
- Great Lakes Bioneers, Detroit, member Detroit Food Justice Task Force
- Opening of Detroit
- People’s Kitchen Detroit, member Detroit Food Justice Task Force
- Urban Network
- We Want Green Too
- Women Creating Caring Communities
- Youth Educators Alliance
- Commercial farming to start in Detroit with 1,000 trees. Free Press. 8 August 2011.
- Would Hantz Farm be good for Detroit? (Mark Maynard, 2010)
- LEAP + Hantz December 2012 Press Release
After years of red tape delays, Hantz Farms nears sprouting, Crain's Detroit Business, February 16, 2014