Detroit community center to be model of sustainability

A network of local and global businesses are collaborating with the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) to transform a long-vacant apartment complex in Detroit’s lower North End into a multi-functional community space.

Developers expect the area to become one of the most sustainable, energy-efficient buildings in the city, according to a press release.

Companies including BASF, General Motors, PPG and others are working together to reimagine how their materials, systems and techniques can help transform structures into showpieces of innovation and energy efficiency.

“We’re emphasizing efficiency with some of the most sustainable, progressive building products and techniques available today,” said Tyson Gersh, president and founder of MUFI. “Our community center will serve as an example of how we must reinvent the way we plan our buildings, neighborhoods, and communities. Detroit is in a unique position; we have the opportunity to think sustainably and innovatively about the future of our city.”

Featuring more than 30 advanced building materials and systems, the goal is to align the structure with the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. 

Some materials include:

  • BASF’s energy-saving insulation materials, including spray foam polyurethane
  • Pervious paving materials, such as the strong and durable composite Elastopave, from BASF
  • Impact-reducing concrete admixtures, including BASF’s Green Sense
  • Low volatile organic compounds and mildew resistant paints and coatings from PPG
  • Vehicle insulation scrap, repurposed for wall and ceiling insulation from General Motors
  • Forest Stewardship Council certified lumber used in structural and flooring repairs

In addition, wood removed from the existing three-story building will be repurposed into furniture and other items throughout. When complete, the new community center will be a gathering space for residents and visitors to host seminars, workshops, educational programs and more. It will also house a commercial kitchen and serve as MUFI’s new headquarters.

The quest to revitalize Detroit’s Lower North End began nearly seven years ago with the development of the adjacent two-acre urban farm. The community center project is one example of MUFI’s ongoing effort to enhance its existing neighborhood and build economic value for the community.

Other key features of MUFI’s three-acre agricultural campus include:

  • Urban farm: More than 300 vegetable varieties are grown, providing about 20,000 pounds of produce annually, or more than 50,000 pounds of produce grown since 2012. The food is free to the more than 2,000 households, food pantries, churches, and businesses within two square miles of the farm.
  • High-density fruit orchard: Detroit’s most diverse and dense urban orchard featuring about 200 fruit tree varieties.
  • Children’s sensory garden: The garden is an enriched learning environment for children, centered on stimulation of the five senses.


Topics: Agricultural and Farm Buildings, Architectural Firms, Building Owners and Managers, Construction Firms, Insulation, Mixed Use Communities/Developments & Buildings, Multifamily / Multiunit Residential, Paint - Low & No VOC, Sustainable Communities, Thermal Envelope - Building Envelope, Urban Planning and Design

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