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An open letter to the community about Hantz Woodlands

By Mike Score

Hantz Woodlands will clean up 170 acres on the lower east side of Detroit, by planting and maintaining more than 70,000 hardwood trees, eliminating blight and creating an environment where people want to live, work and play.

Hantz Woodlands is a company formed by the Hantz Group to invest in improvement of Detroit neighborhoods. Nearly one-third of the city landscape has become publicly owned through foreclosure. The city is unable to complete even basic maintenance practices on publicly owned parcels. City owned structures have fallen into disrepair. Vacant lots are no longer mowed. Illegal dumping can be seen in all corners of the city. Residents across the city complain that unmanaged city property is a dangerous eyesore that must be corrected to prevent further population loss and economic decline.

John Hantz, a 20 year resident of Detroit, shares concerns held by many Detroiters about the expanding blight across the city. As CEO of the Hantz Group he has led his company in committing to purchase and repurpose larger tracts of neglected land, by stopping the blight through site cleanup and the planting of trees.

People who have been generous, and who practice civic duty and pride in their communities understand and support Hantz Group’s willingness to make this type of investment. The effort is to clean up, maintain and create a beautiful environment that will grow the city’s population base and create an economic catalyst by stimulating new business opportunities and therefore, jobs.

Hantz Woodlands has negotiated an agreement with the city that, if approved by city council, will result in the purchase of approximately 170 acres on the city’s lower east side for a premium of $3,600 an acre — 1/3 higher than the City’s value of the land. Hantz also agreed that the City can sell the property within the designated area to the neighbors who are already gardening on those lots.

Hantz Woodlands will invest approximately $5 million over the first three years of operations to clean up properties and plant trees. Hantz Woodlands would remove brush from alleys and debris from vacant lots so that the land can be mowed regularly and planted to mixed hardwoods. In the event that the City passes an ordinance that allows for certain types of commercial agriculture in Detroit, Hantz Woodlands will recover development costs, over time, through the sale of trees and ornamental crops.

The agreement includes a public/private partnership that would demolish more than 100 abandoned structures. Project overhead costs normally paid by the City will instead be covered by Hantz Woodlands and recovered over time through tax credits.

In establishing a woodland, our company will be making a commitment to a 60-year cycle between planting and harvesting of trees. Successful repurposing of this land would result in an option to expand Hantz Woodlands through the purchase of other unmanaged city properties. Purchasing the land is appropriate given the scale of investment required to improve livability within the affected area.

Skeptics have raised concerns and accusations, suggesting that Hantz Woodlands has held discussions with Monsanto, that have resulted in agreements to plant genetically modified crops and to indiscriminately apply pesticides across Detroit’s landscape. This simply is not true. Hantz Woodlands has no agreement with Monsanto and is not acting on behalf of Monsanto or any other large corporation. We are not going to plant genetically modified crops or indiscriminately apply pesticides across Detroit’s landscape.

The purpose of Hantz Woodlands is to clean up neglected properties and establish well managed hardwoods that will provide color in spring and fall, and shade and greening during summer months. It is one of only six projects endorsed by the Lower Eastside Action Plan. We have the support of many block clubs and non-profit organizations. We are in constant contact with all of the people who live in the area and more than 95 percent support this project. We are working closely with and have the support of all City Departments to ensure success for this project.

In taking steps to launch Hantz Woodlands investment, we have affirmed the good work that others are doing to contribute to a more vibrant Detroit. Expansion of the Detroit River Walk, improvements in the city’s business districts, the hundreds of urban gardens and the ongoing investments of thousands of Detroit residents in improvements to their properties are all part of a concerted effort that is needed to revitalize Detroit’s neighborhoods and marketplaces.

Hantz Woodlands has an open door policy. Background information about our company can be found atwww.hantzfarmsdetroit.com. We have established a small demonstration area in the neighborhood next to our office located at 17403 Mt. Elliot in Detroit. Anyone who would like to see the demonstration area can contact our office at 313.893.1937 to schedule a tour. Questions and dialogue are welcome.

Michael Score is president of Hantz Farms.

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