Detroit Future City (DFC) Land & Building Resources Priority: Transforming Vacant Land into an Innovative Open Space Network
The DFC Strategic Framework designates areas for strategic growth, areas for neighborhood stabilization and other areas for transformation into an innovative open space network. 
This open space network provides the opportunity to transform the city’s enormous vacant land liability into an open space amenity, drastically improving the quality of life for Detroiters by:
  • Improving public health and environmental quality by cleaning air, water and soil through the use of vacant land for forests, green buffers and blue infrastructure
  • Generating food, jobs, energy and commerce through innovative open space land uses
  • Connecting neighborhoods and employment districts through greenways
  • Providing opportunities for recreation and play
The DFC Implementation Office’s efforts to catalyze the transformation of Detroit’s vacant land into an open space network are being moved forward on several fronts.
Contributing to Public Policy 

We are currently initiating an open space technical planning process to refine the open space concept laid out in the DFC Strategic Framework and to support community-led work related to open space.  This will be achieved by working with stakeholders and partners through a robust community engagement process to create an integrated open space plan for the city of Detroit.  This plan can be used in the future to inform public policy, resource allocation and strategic investment throughout the city.  

For more information, please contact DFC Implementation Office land use convener, Dara O’Byrne (
Partnering for Success

On December 3, the Rockefeller Foundation will announce the winners of the second round of their “100 Resilient Cities Challenge.”  The foundation defines “resilience” as "the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses and systems within a city to survive, adapt and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience."
The DFC Implementation Office supported the City of Detroit in developing their submission because we believe Detroit has the potential to be the most resilient city in the world.
Detroiters, including residents, civic organizations and businesses, have shown their inherent resilience in the way they have weathered decades of unprecedented challenges with strength and resolve. At this time of a ‘new start’ following bankruptcy, Detroit has a chance to show even greater resilience by continuing to build a more sustainable economy, strengthening community groups, undertaking further integrated, community-centered planning efforts, reforming outdated systems, and deploying innovative land-utilization strategies that mitigate the effects of severe weather events.
Empowering Detroiters with Resources

At the end of October, DFC kicked off the Vacant Land Transformation Guide by hosting two orientation sessions for the project's stakeholder advisory groups.  The purpose of the guide is to provide technical resources to individuals and organizations for innovative land transformation in Detroit - a critical step toward realizing an innovative open space network and improving quality of life for Detroiters.
The DFC Implementation Office is working with a diverse set of stakeholders to develop the content in the guide as well as in envision how the guide's content is shared. Representatives from the City of Detroit, the private sector, community-based and non-profit organizations, as well as individual community members and leaders, have been invited to participate. The Vacant Land Transformation Guide is made possible by the generous support of the Erb Family Foundation.  Please contact DFC Implementation Office Program Manager Erin Kelly ( for more information.
Sharing Thought Leadership and Innovative Actions Internationally

The DFC Implementation Office has been tapped by organizations internationally to collaborate and share its thought leadership and innovative best practices around open space planning.
DFC asked to Share Best Practices and Jury Van Alen Institute ‘Future Ground’ Design Competition in NOLA
The Van Alen Institute partnered with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) to develop and execute the “Future Ground” design competition, which invites submissions from multidisciplinary teams to create policy and design strategies for vacant land reutilization. 
Dan Kinkead, DFC Implementation Office director of projects, has been invited to jury the competition and to share perspectives from our work in Detroit.  The DFC Implementation Office also will help teams navigate the next steps of the competition and hopes to translate what it learns into actionable strategies for Detroit.
 “Like Detroit, New Orleans has experienced decades of disinvestment resulting in an abundance of vacant and underutilized parcels,” said Kinkead.  “Van Alen and NORA see the opportunity, as we do at DFC, to blend highly innovative creativity with robust community participation to transform vacant land from a liability into an asset that improves quality of life.”
Click here for more information on the Future Ground Competition and DFC’s contribution.
DFC to Present on Open Space Planning at American Society of Landscape Architects conference
The DFC Implementation Office is presenting at two panel events during the American Society of Landscape Architecture’s national conference, the single largest gathering of landscape architecture professionals in the world.   
One of the panels, entitled “Heart and Soil: Implementing Successful Projects in the Legacy City Context,” will include DFC Implementation Office Program Manager Erin Kelly, along with Sean Burkholder, University of Buffalo Urban and Landscape Design professor, and Sandra Albro of the Cleveland Botanical Garden.  The panel will present and compare three recently-completed applied research initiatives engaging vacant land in legacy cities.
Click here to learn more about the conference and panel discussion.
DFC Delivers Keynote at 2014 Association of European Schools of Planning conference “Finding Space for Productive Cities”
The DFC Implementation Office was invited to deliver one of two keynote presentations at the 6th Annual AESOP Conference in Leeuwarden, Netherlands on November 6.  Focused on adaptive land reutilization in global cities for food production, Dan Kinkead, DFC Implementation Office director of projects, discussed pilot initiatives, policy recommendations and engagement efforts to provide powerful illustrations of how Detroiters are working to redefine their city’s future and how those efforts could inform strategies in Europe.
Following the conference, AESOP leaders invited the DFC Implementation Office to participate in a transnational design studio linking land reutilization research in Europe, Africa and North America.
“This was an exciting opportunity to share our work with so many innovators,” said Kinkead. “There is global recognition of Detroit’s potential to be the first fully resilient city, with food security, renewable energy and employment rising from shared aspirations and strategic investment.  DFC, for many, manifests this potential.” 
Click here for more information on the AESOP Conference and DFC’s contribution.
DFC Studies Adaptive Re-use Best Practices in Germany
DFC Implementation Office city systems convener Chris Dorle, who is also a Strong Cities, Strong Communities Fellow with the US German Marshall Fund, had the opportunity to take a self-directed study tour of Germany in October.  The goal of the study was to research Germany’s best practices in sustainability and the adaptive reuse of vacant industrial property. In crisscrossing the country by rail and rad (German for bike), he was able to glean information and actions that could be applied in Detroit, including:
  • Renewables provide more than clean energy and can be a potential local revenue source for former industrial cities
  • Industrial heritage can form the basis for creating cultural destinations - The former industrial capital of Germany, the Ruhrgebiet, has transformed itself and its former coalmines and blast furnaces into a European cultural center
  • Leverage musical history as a differentiator - By elevating its musical history, Leipzig has increased its appeal as a destination, differentiating itself from its neighbors, including nearby Berlin
Visit the DFC blog for more on Chris Dorle’s take-aways from his studies in Germany.

DFC in the News

The Detroit News: Rapson: Detroit is on track for a positive future 

Yahoo! News: A model in Detroit's post-bankruptcy plan

Detroit Free Press: Neighborhoods Summit seeks to bust blight, improve city

Open Space Planning in Detroit
The following organizations are transforming the way we look at open space in the city of Detroit. Visit their websites for more information. 
DFC Resource List 
DFC  is dedicated to empowering Detroiters by connecting them to resources. The DFC Resource List can serve as a starting point for organizing, planning, referrals or partnering for projects and other opportunities.

Download the Resource List here.

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Detroit, MI 48202