Neighborhood buys property to preserve community garden on Detroit’s west side

‘We hope that we can leave a legacy that will pass on to those who follow us along with other neighborhoods’

A Detroit neighborhood association bought a lot to preserve an essential piece of its community on the city's west side. The vacant lot on Memorial near I-96 and the Southfield Freeway had become an eyesore, so they cleaned it up and turned it into a community garden. Now that plot of land is officially theirs. It became official today.

DETROIT – A Detroit neighborhood association bought property to preserve a community garden on the city’s west side.

The vacant lot on Memorial Street near I-96 and the Southfield Freeway had become an eyesore, so Schoolcraft Improvement Association (SIA) cleaned it up and turned it into a community garden.

On Friday (Sept. 16), the association finalized the purchase and are now the new property owners.

It’s a proud moment year’s in the making, especially for people like Martha Lathan. She’s lived on Memorial Street since 1993 and remembers before it was vacant.

“It used to be a house here, and a house burned down, so the kids from school kept running in and out of it,” said Lathan. “We didn’t want the illegal dumping, and we didn’t want the riff-raff in the neighborhood. We could have had other activity out here, and we didn’t want that.”

Neighbors and SIA got the city to knock down the home. From there, they cleaned up, and for the last 10 years, the area has been a community garden.

SIA President Aminah Steger said it’d become more than a garden but a staple.

“We also have our community meetings here, we do community gatherings, we’ll do bike-a-thons with each other, we’ll do walks with each other, we’ve done book clubs here,” said Steger. “We also have our annual Jazz in the Garden that everybody loves to come and partake in from all over.”

It was city officials they’ve worked with in the past who gave them a heads up earlier this year that there was a chance things could change.

City officials who they’ve worked with in the past gave them a heads up earlier this year that there was a chance things could change.

“They let us know, ‘Hey, this lot is now up for purchase,’” Steger said. “They let us know what we needed to do, and we were able to submit an application, complete the application and do what all was needed in order to procure this lot.”

They bought the property from the Detroit Land Bank Friday afternoon for $250 with money from membership dues.

Now more than ever, the community garden will stand as a reminder of how planting a seed of hope, hard work, and coming together can really make a difference.

“Hopefully, when my generation is gone, the young people are still keeping up with it,” Lathan said. “The kids from the school. We had them participating in the beginning and showing them how to grow and do all things like that. So it means a whole lot.”

“We hope that we can leave a legacy that will pass on to those who follow us along with other neighborhoods,” Steger said.

SIA plans to celebrate the big moment with a community event at the garden.

For more on SIA, click here.


About the Author:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.