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Urbane Gardens

Community Garden1a

So we have been bouncing the idea of Community Gardens around for a couple years here at Urbane. We would talk about but as spring neared, other things seemed more pressing and the idea never really got off the ground. This year, 2017 we are taking action. The general idea is that we have unused green space at several apartment communities around Royal Oak, Ferndale, Berkley, Clawson, Farmington and Milford. What if we could create a program that empowered the people living in the adjacent nieghborhoods to grow food through access to community gardens and education. We envision connecting people to the earth and their community through growing food. To achieve this, Urbane facilitates access to land, tools, and education. Through these efforts, we aim to benefit our community by:

  • Making fresh and local produce available
  • Developing a deeper understanding of where our food comes from
  • Supporting a self-sustaining lifestyle
  • Building an awareness of the bounty that connected nieghborhoods offer

Gardens2 Our hope is that this idea expands to be much larger than us. We have posted a couple of basic ads on different local Facebook Groups, Ferndale Permaculture, Royal Oak Community Forum  and Ferndale Forum.  The response was surprisingly good. We have a few interviews and interest to follow up with. Our plan is to hire a part time to full time person that resonates with the project as a whole. It seems that if this really is bigger that us, Love plays a significant role in this. That sounds a little corny coming from an apartment guy developing real estate, however Love IS a required ingredient here.

This wouldn’t be the first idea for community gardens, but our hope is that other businesses may follow the lead. It should also be clear, that while this could be a perk for our Urbane Residents, it is an open and sincere invite for the local neighborhood around the target Urbane Apartment Community to be involved. Our hope is that these gardens become rich and diverse places for connection. Connection with the earth, and connection with each other.

We see these as gathering spaces, have an evening cocktail, chat with others, bring a book. The garden spaces will have walking paths, sitting areas, benches, tables and outdoor art. We see each space as having a small shipping container for storage and garden supplies, but maybe a rooftop deck, that overlooks the gardens and outdoor art.

We hope to start to practice all sorts of sustainability, from capturing rain water for irrigation, to making sure that all the food we produce get eaten, and gets to the folks in Gardens3need. And that we know where our food is coming from.

The following steps are adapted from the American Community Garden Association’s guidelines for launching a successful community garden in your neighborhood.

1. Organize a Meeting Of Interested People

Determine whether a garden is really needed and wanted, what kind it should be (vegetable, flower, both, organic?), whom it will involve and who benefits. Invite neighbors, tenants, community organizations, gardening and horticultural societies, building superintendents (if it is at an apartment building)—in other words, anyone who is likely to be interested.

2. Form a Planning Committee

This group can be comprised of people who feel committed to the creation of the garden and have the time to devote to it, at least at this initial stage. Choose well-organized persons as garden coordinators Form committees to tackle specific tasks: funding and partnerships, youth activities, construction and communication.

3. Identify All Your Resources

Do a community asset assessment. What skills and resources already exist in the community that can aid in the garden’s creation? Contact local municipal planners about possible sites, as well as horticultural societies and other local sources of information and assistance. Look within your community for people with experience in landscaping and gardening. In Toronto contact the Toronto Community Garden Network.

4. Approach A Sponsor

Some gardens “self-support” through membership dues, but for many, a sponsor is essential for donations of tools, seeds or money. Churches, schools, private businesses or parks and recreation departments are all possible supporters. One garden raised money by selling “square inches” at $5 each to hundreds of sponsors.

5. Choose A Site

Consider the amount of daily sunshine (vegetables need at least six hours a day), availability of water, and soil testing for possible pollutants. Find out who owns the land. Can the gardeners get a lease agreement for at least three years? Will public liability insurance be necessary?

6. Prepare And Develop The Site

In most cases, the land will need considerable preparation for planting. Organize volunteer work crews to clean it, gather materials and decide on the design and plot arrangement.

7. Organize the Garden

Members must decide how many plots are available and how they will be assigned. Allow space for storing tools, making compost and don’t forget the pathways between plots! Plant flowers or shrubs around the garden’s edges to promote good will with non-gardening neighbors, passersby and municipal authorities.

8. Plan for Children

Consider creating a special garden just for kids–including them is essential. Children are not as interested in the size of the harvest but rather in the process of gardening. A separate area set aside for them allows them to explore the garden at their own speed.

9. Determine Rules and Put Them In Writing

The gardeners themselves devise the best ground rules. We are more willing to comply with rules that we have had a hand in creating. Ground rules help gardeners to know what is expected of them. Think of it as a code of behavior. Some examples of issues that are best dealt with by agreed upon rules are: dues, how will the money be used? . How are plots assigned? Will gardeners share tools, meet regularly, handle basic maintenance?

10. Help Members Keep In Touch with Each Other

Good communication ensures a strong community garden with active participation by all. Some ways to do this are: form a telephone tree, create an email list; install a rainproof bulletin board in the garden; have regular celebrations. Community gardens are all about creating and strengthening communities.

Potential Livonia


We see the first Urbane Community Garden at the green space at 1923 Crooks, just North of 12 mIle on the West side of Crooks. It is a natural space for this, with much sunlight, and ample space. There is also a good opportunity to catch the roof runoff rain water too, and there is good parking for anyone driving there. Urbane on Fairmont, 3415 Fairmont, on 13 Mile, just east of Southfield Road is another great location. Also of note, many of our buildings have full basements, that are totally empty, not used for anything. These spaces would make a great place for seedlings, to get plants started for springtime plantings. Oh, and what if we created effective compost, therefore cutting down on what gets hauled to the landfill.

I know little about what I am writing about here, however it just feels right, and we are ready for the challenges of learning, and expanding our properties and available resources to create a cool urban community gardens in the nieghborhoods we operate apartment communities in.

This article brought to you by the fine folks at Urbane Apartments in Royal Oak,  Urbane Apartments in Birmingham, Urbane Apartments in Berkley, Urbane Apartments in Milford, Urbane Apartments Ferndale.


EBEric’s background is rooted in the rental and real estate industries. He founded metro Detroit’s Urbane Apartments in 2002, after serving as senior vice president for a major Midwest apartment developer. He established a proven track record of effectively repositioning existing rental properties in a way that added value for investors while enhancing the resident experience. He also established Urbane Media, a social media marketing and PR laboratory, where innovative marketing ideas are tested. Eric has been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine and Business Week Magazine, the New York Times and Harvard Business Review . You can connect with Eric at  UrbaneLife on Twitter. Eric also writes regular articles for the following publications:


Multi Housing

Social Media Examiner

Search Engine Guide

RDA Press, (Rich Dad Advisors) are publishing Eric’s first book,Apartments to Hot Sauce; RED HOT RECIPES FOR YOUR BUSINESS START-UP, to be on the bookstore shelves in MARCH-2017!

Apts to Hot Sauce

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