Press Release

Detroit Future City Releases Field Guide Tool to Help Detroiters Transform Vacant Land

October 5, 2015

Detroit – Detroiters, who have long been challenged with the liabilities of vacant land in their neighborhood, will now have a user-friendly tool developed by the Detroit Future City (DFC) Implementation Office and a range of partners to help guide their efforts to transform these vacant lots into assets.

The DFC Field Guide to Working with Lots is available online and in print and offers step-by-step instructions, guidance and resources to transform vacant land into a variety of landscapes.

“The DFC Implementation Office opened two years ago with a mission to improve quality of life by engaging and empowering Detroiters through participatory processes that yield innovative and impactful pilot programs and tools. The Field Guide is a great example of how we are achieving that mission,” said Dan Kinkead, DFC Implementation Office Acting Executive Director.

“While our office has made great strides to advance the shared imperatives laid out in the DFC Strategic Framework from a systemic level, the Field Guide puts the tools to fulfill those imperatives in the hands of Detroiters.  It’s an equitable and actionable guidebook to improve our neighborhoods by improving physical appearance, contributing to a more resilient natural infrastructure, and stimulating job growth and economic opportunity.

The Field Guide was developed over the past year as the DFC Implementation Office engaged an array of community partners and stakeholders to help inform its content.  This robust process was designed to ensure the Field Guide reflects the needs and aspirations of Detroiters and true conditions of the city’s land.

Andrea Perkins, community planner and engagement specialist for Black Family Development, served as member of a stakeholder review group for the Field Guide.  She said, “DFC brought all elements of the Field Guide, from design and content to implementation strategies, to the table for feedback from stakeholders. Because of this dedicated engagement process, the Field Guide provides comprehensive details that address and complement unique, neighborhood characteristics across the city.”

The DFC Field Guide to Working with Lots provides a suite of materials that takes users through step-by-step instructions to help transform lots.  The materials include:

The 74-page printed Field Guide with the following sections:

  • Work together – tips on how to collaborate with neighbors and where to connect with resources for the lot project.
  • Get organized – understanding the lot, its qualities, assets and challenges, including mapping the block, testing the soil, assess sun and shade, and budgeting.
  • Lot designs – 34 lot design reference cards that illustrate the different designs for various types of lots, and include considerations for skill level, time and upkeep, storm water reduction, and budget.
  • Make connections – Information about resources in the community that can help the lot attainment and transformation process.

The 34 lot designs:

  • After working through the Field Guide and deciding from the reference cards which design/s are best for the users’ lots, the lot design pamphlets provide more explicit instructions on how to construct the lot.  These are available in print or online.

The Field Guide website (

  • The Field Guide website includes all of the above information, as well as user-friendly tools like the “Discover Your Lot” quiz, a glossary of terms and the lot designs that can be downloaded. The website will also have images and updates on local examples of other organizations, groups and residents working with land in Detroit, including examples of where designs from the Field Guide are being built.”

To complement the Field Guide, the DFC Implementation Office has also developed an informational pamphlet called “A Little about Lots” to create greater awareness of the value and opportunity for vacant land reutilization in our communities. The pamphlet defines green infrastructure, and how it can be used to transform vacant land into spaces that make Detroit healthier in many ways, from providing cleaner air and water to job opportunities.

“The Field Guide underscores the important role the DFC Implementation Office plays in stewarding improvements in Detroit,” said George Swan, DFC Executive Committee Chair. “It’s a critical extension to the contributions the office has made to other major green infrastructure efforts, including helping the City of Detroit secure $9 million in federal funding and providing technical assistance for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.”

The Field Guide is funded by Erb Family Foundation, whose mission is to nurture environmentally healthy communities in Metro Detroit to help restore the Great Lakes Ecosystem.  In addition to supporting ongoing blight elimination and side lot disposition efforts, the Field Guide contributes to the formation of an innovative Open Space Network.

John M. Erb, President of the Erb Family Foundation, said, “The Field Guide will help to cultivate Detroit’s inherent green infrastructure, reducing harmful impacts on the Great Lakes while working to stabilize neighborhoods.  This begins to also integrate socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable facets of private enterprise and individual stewardship.  We’re excited to now see the Guide translate into implementation.”

DFC’s project leader for the Guide, Erin Kelly, noted “we’ve already catalogued nearly thirty implementation projects that will be utilizing the Guide and lot designs by the end of the fall planting season.  Along with our partners, we plan to provide insight and support to those implementing the designs.”

Initial implementation efforts, including a mini-granting process, funded by the Erb Family Foundation, will be announced in the coming weeks.  It’s anticipated that the Field Guide will be updated with user feedback for a second edition in early 2016.

The Field Guide print edition is available at the DFC Implementation Office, 2990 West Grand Boulevard, Suite 2, Detroit, 48202, and for reference at every Detroit Public Library branch across the city.   For more information and questions, call 313-294-LOTS or email  Also, engage on Detroit Future City’s social media through following #DFClots and hashtags for each lot design, for example #summersoilbooster or #8mileraingarden.

The DFC Implementation Office will have a number of engagement opportunities in the coming months, where community groups, suppliers and residents can learn how to use the Field Guide and train others to use the tool.  These opportunities will be posted to the DFC Implementation’s website at



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