GrapeSeedDetroit is using vacant lots to grow grapes for a long-term operation of wine-making.
Detroit isn’t typically considered a destination to grow a vineyard and start a winery, but co-founders Reg Flowers (of Alt Space) and Blake Kownacki (of Detroit Vineyards) see Detroit as the premier world-class wine destination.
Reg founded Alt Space Detroit to be a “community incubator space seeking to develop sustainable independent, grassroots and community driven projects that bring social and economic viability to the Island View community.” As Reg sought to learn how the current resources in his community could be managed, his experiment has blossomed into an incredible partnership with Blake and a few others, ultimately leading to the cultivation of GrapeSeedDetroit.
They are initiating the vineyard as a part of a large scale cooperative with about a quarter acre of vacant land on Reg’s property. The company’s unique model recruits, teaches and trains residents on how to grow grapes on vacant lots for horticultural purpose.
On each lot, GrapeSeedDetroit actively puts in infrastructure for the vineyard. Then GrapeSeedDetroit plants the vines and trains residents on how to maintain the lots on an annual basis. This in turn creates lifelong skills, enhances community beautification, and encourages community involvement. According to Blake, it only takes about 4,500 square feet to create a vineyard, which is about the average size of a Detroit lot. Through this partnership, residents are contracted with GrapeSeedDetroit to grow grapes, creating an income opportunity for those that participate.
When asked what advice he would offer to someone who is ready to transform vacant lots, Reg says you have to be ready to get your hands dirty and really be ready to work hard. You also have to be open to connecting with people. Entering into this journey, he didn’t realize just how generous people really were, and how willing they were to seeing the project be successful. Blake adds that it’s really important to listen to what others are saying—especially if you are planning to have community input or ownership.
Visit GrapeSeedDetroit website