Vacant house lots turned into bio retention gardens

- Two abandoned homes were magnets for crime and making an entire neighborhood  look bad for quite some time.

Those houses are finally gone and now something beautiful is springing up in their place on Detroit's west side.

A bio retention garden along Evergreen is a showing a new way of getting rid of abandoned homes and managing storm water which can prevent flooding during heavy rain.

When it rains, water from the street goes into the catch basin and ultimately, Detroit's sewer system.

"With this particular system we intercept that flow, we take the water directly off of the street," said Palencia Mobley, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. "It flows right here to this garden, and the water is taken by the plants. It's used for the plants to grow and that water doesn't enter our sewer system."

And that's a big help for the Detroit water and sewage department according to Mobley, the deputy director and chief engineer.

"How it helps us with water management is that it's less water we have to treat at the waste water treatment plant," she said. "During heavy rain events we also have facilities for over flow treatment facilities and this allows us to get more capacity at those facilities for actual sanitary flow and not just storm flow.

"Storm flow when it can be managed with the use of green infrastructure, is very important to do that and that’s are what we’re doing here."

One thing to keep in mind is that these retention gardens are for viewing only, people are not allowed to walk on them.

It is also another example of how the city of Detroit is fighting blight.

"This is the site of two vacant homes," said Mobley. "I think the most important part about what we've done here, is to look at the city at eliminating blight in a different fashion and this also going to change the way people respond in the neighborhood.

"You want people to be more engaged and take a stake in their neighborhood. we haven't forgotten about them and this is how neighborhoods are going to look in the future as we do better to manage storm water."

This is a pilot program and the city will gather data and feedback from local neighborhoods going forward.

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