September 8, 2017

This treehouse in Detroit will become a center for community and healing

Get inspired by three stories of innovation and ingenuity across America

A mockup of the Manistique Community Treehouse, a recreational center for kids that's currently raising money for construction in Detroit. Photo courtesy of the Manistique Block Club

Lofty plans in Detroit: A Detroit nonprofit is raising money to create a safe space for children and those living with disabilities on Detroit’s far east side. The Manistique Block Club, with support from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Creekside Development Corporation, is crowdfunding to build the Manistique Community Treehouse, a 400-square-foot recreation center nestled 10 feet above the ground, between two trees. The goal of the campaign is to raise $13,000 by Oct. 25; if that goal is reached, the MEDC will match the $13,000. Tammy Black, who developed the idea and launched the crowdfunding campaign for it, says that the treehouse will include programming for children and teens, and will offer therapeutic services to adults as well. “The focus is to help kids develop communication skills, also cognitive and learning skills, to improve self-confidence and have them be more diverse,” Black told Crain’s Detroit Business. “They need a place where they can go, ‘OK, I can be me. … I can go and be myself.'”

Community-minded renewal in Milwaukee: In 2016, Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood was the site of civil unrest after the fatal police shooting of a 23-year-old black man. Several businesses in the areas were burnt down or damaged, including BMO Harris Bank. Now, the city is investing in the Sherman Park neighborhood and transforming the old bank—rechristened as the Sherman Phoenix, a nod to its “rebirth” after burning down—into a building meant to house local minority entrepreneurs. A total of $2.5 million—a mix of city funds and money from private investors and philanthropists—will be funneled into the development. Already, 12 local black-owned businesses have signed on to lease space in the building when it opens next year. The development reflects a “shared desire to become a part of the economy, to be able to have vibrant spaces that reflect the diversity of the community,” said Joanne Sabir, a co-developer on the project.

Urban farming in Pittsburgh: “I can’t imagine the last time that a mayor had the opportunity to cut a ribbon on a farm in the city of Pittsburgh, and not just a farm, but the largest urban farm in America,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto on Aug. 24, at the opening ceremony for the 107-acre property that will eventually house the Hilltop Urban Farm. In the 1950s, a large public housing complex was built at the location, but in 2009, its residents were evicted and the complex was torn down. The Hilltop Alliance, a Pittsburgh nonprofit that represents 11 South Pittsburgh neighborhoods, devoted itself to renewing the land in service to the community. “Right now the median property value in this area is under $30,000,” Hilltop Alliance executive director Aaron Sukenik told NextCity. “A lot of this is about creating an anchor community asset that can start to spur more home buyer interest and reclamation of other vacant property in the area.” The farm will be subdivided into a variety of plots that serve different purposes. One three-acre plot will be dedicated to community farming; another one-acre plot will support a youth farm. The complex will also feature a farmer’s market and a new affordable housing development.

Mikhail Klimentov

Mikhail Klimentov is a contributor for The Renewal Project