Will Detroit’s Hantz Farms be the World’s First Urban Farm?

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of urban revitalization that provides cities with fresh, local food; trains underemployed populations in new agricultural trades; and beautifies city cores that are rotting into rubble? Or will it become a yet another bureaucratic nightmare in Detroit’s history, done in by infighting and institutional incompetence?

Mike Score, president of Hantz Farm, believes wholeheartedly in his company’s vision. The idea for an urban farm first came about a few years ago when John Hantz, the farm’s namesake and CEO, grew tired of watching the city he had lived in for decades crumble.

“John fell in love with the city,” Score says. “He chooses to live in Detroit even though he could live anywhere else in Michigan. He saw how pockets of blight were expanding, and he was concerned the city could become unlivable.”

Hantz, who made his fortune with a financial services company, worried that more vacant land would lead to less property-tax revenue in city coffers, which would in turn would mean the city would no longer be able to provide city services—an idea that has become reality as the Bing administration convenes planning meeting after planning meeting in search of a solution to this very problem.

Score says Hantz came to realize the city had a problem in the bombed-out blocks, poorly educated workforce, and perpetually high crime rate that makes Detroit appear to be a shaky proposition to many investors. But Hantz didn’t see it that way. He saw a city with an international border crossing, a port, a solid transportation infrastructure, nearby universities to provide technical support, and a chronically underemployed workforce.

“John began to wonder what business could do to change the marketplace,” Score says. “He saw that there was no scarcity of land, and he realized something had to happen to create scarcity of land again.”

Score says Detroit has 40 square miles of publicly owned vacant land. Hantz wanted a way to put a significant amount of land back in the private sector, so that the maintenance shifted away from the cash-strapped city and into the hands of private enterprise. Hantz decided he’d invest $30 million … Next Page »

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Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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