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A New Economy for Detroit Michigan - Green Revival Possible | Statistics

Updated on December 2, 2013

Death of the Detroit Economy

American made was once the standard. The Industrial Revolution ushered in millions of jobs for America. One of the main industries was the automotive industry which historically has been headquartered in Detroit Michigan, the home of Henry Ford, the founder/inventor/mechanic of Ford Motor Company. This once great American city is crumbling under the weight of the loss of manufacturing here in the United States. On January 18, 2010 Fortune magazine reported a very scary statistics for this once great city.

Scary Statistic Number One:

33,000 empty / abandoned homes in one city in America - Detroit, Michigan.

Scary Economic Statistic Number Two:

The cost of an acre of land in Detroit $3,000 in comparison to the cost of an acre of farmland in Iowa is $4,500.

More Scary Statistics on Detroit- Population of Detroit Historically:

  • Population 1950 - 1.8 million
  • Population 2009 - 800,000

More Scary Statistics on Detroit - Vacant Land and Comparable:

  • Underutilized land (not vacant) in Detroit 139 square miles
  • Comparable: San Francisco 47 square miles, Boston 48 square miles, Manhattan 23 miles

History Repeating Itself? Sack of Rome Revisited

There is hope. There is a possibility of a return to agriculture. The irony of the return to agriculture for Detroit is seen in history. If you will recall the Sack of Rome was the beginning of the Dark Ages for Europe. Up until the starvation and takeover of this great and prosperous center of the world which was referred to as Rome, the world was a relatively prosperous and peaceful place. War would end all of that and the flight away from the urban cities began and a return to the basics - agriculture. See the direct parallel? Isn't history fascinating?

The Good News - A Plan from a Former Stockbroker

John Hantz who was once a star stockbroker – his plan – big idea – to help his dying city. His idea is to create a farm. Yes - you heard me correctly - to revert the urban city acreage to farmland. But not just any farmland.

Hantz's vision is to create a farm – a “large-scale, for-profit agricultural enterprise, wholly contains within the city limits of Detroit.”

Why this crazy idea? Because of the statistics and demographics of the city of Detroit. The City of Detroit has an enormous amount of abandoned land.

Artist Rendering of Advanced Farming - the Largest Urban Farm In the World

artist rendering of re-purposing land in Detroit Michigan - new advanced farming
artist rendering of re-purposing land in Detroit Michigan - new advanced farming

Facts Presented by Fortune Magazine

On January 18, 2010, Fortune reported some terrifying facts about the American city that died from the demise of manufacturing:

  • 33,000 Empty/Abandoned Homes
  • Cost of an acre in Detroit - $3,000, Cost of farmland in Iowa $4,500
  • Detroit's Population 1950 1.8 million Detroit's Population 2009 800,000
  • Vacant Land in Detroit 139 Square Miles
  • Comparable Vacant Land:
  • Boston 48 square Miles
  • Manhattan 23 square miles

The Green Detroit Idea from John Hantz

Who is John Hantz?

A wealthy money manager, age 48, who lives in Detroit. Hantz is reported as a "former star stockbroker with American Express". He started his own firm 13 years ago and now has 20 offices throughout Michigan, Ohio, and Georgia, more than 500 employees, and $1.3 billion in assets under management.

"With a net worth of more than $100 million, he's one of the richest men left in Detroit -- one of the very few in his demographic who stayed put when others were fleeing to Grosse Pointe and Bloomfield Hills. Not long ago, while commuting, he stumbled on a big idea that might help save his dying city."

The Benefit to the City of Detroit

Restore big plots of tax-delinquent, resource-draining urban blight to pastoral productivity and tax paying land.

Provide decent jobs with benefits.

Supply local markets and restaurants with fresh produce.

And attract tourists from all over the world.

The Commitment Needed - The Largest Urban Farm in the World

Hantz is willing to commit $30 million to the project. Forbes reported that he will start with a pilot program Spring 2010 and 50 acres on Detroit's east side.

"Out of the gates," he says, "it'll be the largest urban farm in the world."


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    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 

      7 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin


      You are right - it is not just Detroit and it is not isolated to Michigan. I traveled to a small town in Wisconsin the other day and the blight was readily apparent. So very sad. The lack of jobs is killing America and small town America even beyond the borders of Detroit have been severely affected.

      The decline of an economy always returns to the basics - look at the fall of Rome - their economy reverted to farming - it makes sense for Detroit to head that direction.

      The return of the American car maker is needed - for all of America - not just Detroit. The import from Detroit needs to be our motto for the health of our country.

      My next car will be American.

    • CHRIS57 profile image


      7 years ago from Northern Germany

      It is not just Detroit. Go up North to Flint and Saginaw and find the same sad situation.

      A few years ago i visited my old high school in the Thumb Area of Michigan. I was shocked, business down, town dying, what can i say.

      I do not live in the US, it was my first time after 35 years to visit Michigan. It makes me believe the end time scenarios of Hollywood movies are no more fiction but fact.

      Farming in Detroit? No, i don´t think so. Cities, being attractors for business and people, were always settled in locations best for transport and trade. This asset will not vanish in the future and has more value than farming production.

      I admit the near future does not show the true value of a city like Detroit and vincities.

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 

      8 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin


      You make a very important point. I did change the verbiage. It is a sad and scary statistic.

      The economic impact per square mile is a statistic I wish we tracked as a municipal comparable.

      Know who we are and how we compare is important not just to the one who is thriving but also to those striving.

      Thank you very much for the correction - greatly appreciate your input.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Correction: it is not 139 square miles of vacant land in Detroit. Detroit is comprised of 139 square miles of land which the other three cities can fit into the size of Detroit. What is scary about that statistic is that the populations and economic statuses of all those cities individually are greater than Detroit, yet those cities are siginificantly smaller in size.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I like the idea of the farm in Detroit. I was there last in the summer of 2009 and noticed a drop in numbers of people on the streets and in libraries and businesses.

    • JOE BARNETT profile image


      8 years ago

      detroit was a boom town. but the cold war ruined all that. they thought(our military) that if russia bombed detroit that it would shut down the nation and they were right. so they scattered the auto industry allover.that ended the jobs people moved away and it's becoming a ghost town. i hope this farm thing works. interesting article

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      8 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I was looking into buying investment property in Detroit to rehab and flip a year ago. But I decided against it since I saw the statistics you mentioned about the lowering population. A house can be bought for $5,000 there now. I didn't leave out any zero's. Your hub on turning land into farmland is an enlightening idea. Thanks for writing about it.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      H P, Ralph,

      You are right! As Ralph pointed out, Detroit was the automobile capital of the world - once upon a time....Excellent point! Thank you both for stopping by.


      When I was younger I would get mad at politicians trying to "fix" downtown. Later I visited Detroit and saw firsthand what they were fighting against. The challenges are extreme. I commend the inventiveness to recreate Detroit - ironically back to the farmland. Life comes full circle - doesn't it?

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 

      8 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      HP, it may end up being both. There is a lot of vacant land in Detroit which could be used for growing vegetables. And the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor as well as what remains of the auto companies are attracting technical activities. But Detroit currently is a disaster area in every way--unemployment, poor results from schools, drugs, crime, poverty and so forth.

    • H P Roychoudhury profile image

      H P Roychoudhury 

      8 years ago from Guwahati, India

      Nice hub Kelly. But it gives me the impetus to know whether the Detroit is a farm city or a Techno city? Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      Vladimir Uhri 

      8 years ago

      Very good information. Great hub.


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