DPS Unveils Preliminary Details of New Urban Farm Initiative at the Site of a Former School during Major Property Developers Conference

Detroit Public Schools unveiled preliminary details of a groundbreaking urban farm initiative during a sold-out major property developers conference titled “Old Schools, New Uses: Reinventing Vacant School Buildings & Sites in Detroit for Innovative Redevelopment” on Thursday, March 13, 2014.

The event was held from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at Gleaners Community Food Bank, 2131 Beaufait, Detroit MI 48207. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan offered the keynote to attendees.

During the conference at approximately, Detroit Public Schools officials discussed preliminary plans to launch a 26.9 acre urban farm on the site of the former Kettering High School located at 6101 Van Dyke in Detroit.

The Kettering Urban Agricultural Campus is a four-phased food production project.  Phases I and II will include securing the Kettering site for eight state-of-the-art hoop houses for extended growing and land redevelopment for in-ground planting areas.  Both phases are scheduled for completion during the 2014 growing season with production included in school meals.   The remaining two phases will include food processing and the ability to provide access to healthy foods for students and the community.

“I am certain that the innovative re-purposing of the Kettering property by our Office of School Nutrition will be of great benefit not only to our school community, but also to the surrounding community,” said Emergency Manager Jack Martin.

“Adaptive reuse of our vacant structures is a major focus of Detroit Public Schools’ real estate philosophy, and is critical not only to the future of our community, but also our school district. No longer are we simply trying to sell our properties to the highest bidder. We are now looking for buyers who, wherever possible, will creatively re-use the land to benefit the neighborhood, or at least demolish the existing structure if it is not viable for rehabilitation.”

The urban farm project at the former Kettering site is part of Detroit Public Schools’ overall mission to increase access to healthy, fresh foods while also expanding its philosophy of increasing sustainable agriculture.

The DPS Office of School Nutrition already is at the forefront of school districts nationally when it comes to healthy, sustainable school meals.

The district provides healthy breakfasts and hot nutritional lunches to all students in grades K-12 at no charge. That includes serving 47,000 breakfasts, 55,000 lunches, and 7,000 suppers daily.

As part of that, DPS offers free fresh-cooked food items daily through its Heat & Serve program, where meals are heated, served fresh and hot on site to students in every school.

Menus include a healthy array of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole wheat /whole grain breads and pizza, lower fat and sodium meat/meat alternate options (Turkey Burgers, Turkey Meatballs, Grilled Chicken), 100% fruit juices, and 1% or Fat free milk.

DPS also has improved students access to fresh fruits and vegetables through the Farm to School program, a collaboration between the Office of School Nutrition and the local farming community and is currently offered at every school. Each month local farmers are identified by the Office of School Nutrition to deliver fresh fruits and or vegetables to each school in an effort to support Michigan based farmers as well as increase student exposure to fresh foods.

Last year, 22 percent of produce purchased by Detroit Public Schools was purchased in Michigan.

“We are trying to provide the freshest food possible in the most cost-effective way,” said Betti Wiggins, Executive Director of the Office of School Nutrition.

“We began developing the urban farm project at the former Kettering site when I saw all the positive things being planned for the future of the City of Detroit. We looked at the footprint of the area and tried to conceive of a plan to re-purpose one of our own buildings in a way that would benefit the city and neighborhood while serving our children by expanding access to fresh, healthy food.”

The Michigan Good Food Charter states by 2020, school districts should buy 20 percent from local farmers, Wiggins said. We have already surpassed that but Wiggins’ personal goal has been 30 percent.

“What better way to do that than by growing our own food,” she said.

The urban farm will add to DPS’ expansive school garden program, which is offered in conjunction with the district’s Office of Science, and is already in more than half of all schools. Currently, 51 schools have school gardens. That will expand to 75 this school year.

The Kettering project will include hoop houses where greens and other produce will be grown, while the surrounding site will be planted with sweet corn, initially. The produce grown at the site will be used in DPS school cafeterias to serve the district’s school children.


At the event, Detroit Public Schools highlighted surplus property in prime development locations throughout the city, including waterfront property, property located in the highly-sought Midtown district, developing Downtown area, in numerous neighborhoods, property located in the Detroit Future City target areas, and properties located in neighborhoods designated as Building Sustainable Communities by Detroit Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).

At the end of the conference, networking opportunities were provided to negotiate and make on-the-spot purchasing deals.

Optional shuttle tours of sites were available.

Participants learned how to broker a purchase with Detroit Public Schools, including expedited processes, and how the school properties fit with the city’s long range redevelopment vision. Information was provided on the new school re-use zoning ordinance, land use permits, examples of school buildings that have been reused, tax credits and other funding opportunities.

This event offered useful information and technical details and sought to inspire developers who are passionate about the City.

“It is our hope that the conversations had at the conference will lead to a creative reuse of the properties that will ultimately benefit the neighborhoods in which they are located,” said Tammy Deane, DPS Real Estate Manager.

Networking was available for commercial and residential real estate brokers, developers and investors who are in the market for large or bundled parcels or facilities in the City of Detroit.

Experts showcased dozens of Detroit Public Schools’ sites and buildings and provide investors, developers, and builders with site specific details, and an overview about how to purchase real estate from DPS and navigate City development review processes.

Panels and Speakers:

  • Dan Kinkead, Director of Projects of Detroit Future City
  • Funding Panel discussion including Tahirih Ziegler, Executive Director of Detroit Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and bankers
  • Representatives from the City of Detroit Planning and Development Department to speak about the school reuse zoning ordinance
  • Developers to discuss various redevelopment projects including the Leland Lofts, Burton Theater, and the Detroit Music School
  • Architects experienced in adaptive re-use projects

Participants attending this event gained information on how to:

  • Reuse, preserve, and redevelop historic buildings to become a vital part of the community
  • Work with DPS and the City to acquire land use permits, approvals, and properties
  • Gain resources and information about funding through historic designation and tax credits
  • Explore the School Building Adaptive Reuse Zoning Ordinance Amendment

Sponsors included Detroit Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Plante Moran and ASTI Environmental.

View a map of all DPS properties for sale at www.detroitk12.org/realestate

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