Last October, I wrote about an exciting new project in Detroit called the Veterans Green Village to bring green energy projects to the city and put military veterans to work. I have stayed in contact with Gordon Soderberg (pictured right) who heads up the project. His group has teamed up with the Motor City Blight Busters of Detroit to create the Veterans Village. I asked Gordon to give us an update of this exciting project.
Here’s Gordon’s update.
The Veteran’s Greenhouse Farm and Bus projects of United Peace Relief, Inc. have partnered with Motor City Blight Busters of Detroit to create the Veterans Village at the corner of Orchard and Burgess in Old Redford district of Detroit.
17300 Burgess was originally erected in 1976 as the HEP House. A 13,000 square foot, 7 bedroom group home for adults with disabilities. After the economic downturn, the building went vacant for years until Motor City Blight Busters purchased it a little over a year ago along with two adjoining lots and a third under ownership search. Together, the four lots make up a 1/4 acre on the corner of Burgess and Orchard in Old Redford.
It is perfectly located and named as we just completed planting a apple and cherry orchard at Farm City Detroit that our green veterans Joe Hatcher and Nick Prezbela are assisting Motor City Blight Busters with along with running their own USDA FSA Farm on the same block.
We signed the land lease in April and have secured grants for tools, material, and labor to begin retrofitting the building for veteran housing.
Unlike most veteran housing programs, we are not interested in charging our veterans rent for heating, electricity, insurance, property taxes, management, or maintenance. We are looking for veterans who want to build, live, and work in a veterans-run, self-sustaining housing project by investing in green energy solutions that can reverse the meter before we move in. When completed and fully staffed and operational, the Veterans Village will become an incubator of small veteran-owned green businesses and non profit services.
Progress and been swift after the first four weeks of getting the keys to the building. The electrical Union brothers and sister from Local 58 have donated their time following us as well pulled all the drywall out of the first floor to test all our circuits and provide temporary power to the building. Over 300 Motor City Blight Buster volunteers have donated over 1500 hours to assist our veterans in this effort in just four weeks.
We are off to a great start but we have a very long way to go. To convert the building, we need to have all of the engineering for a small wind turbine, geothermal, radiant floor heating, metal roof siding, rain water catchment, passive, and photovoltaic solar systems. Did I say we wanted to go green?! The Farm also needs help as we are nutrient-rich but dirt-poor. We have over two acres available to farm across the street and all the soil testing and USDA FSA farm certifications needed to produce food for local markets. Joe and Nick need a tractor to plow under two feet of wood chips and to till in tons of manure we’ve had delivered.
Our small group of veterans have not come alone. We are also volunteers of Team Rubicon USA, a national disaster response organization that is looking at Detroit as a location to send their members to for training in debris removal and deconstruction, heavy equipment operation, and OSHA construction safety, as well as lead, asbestos, and mold remediation certifications.
I think you can see where we are going with idea: Empowering our veterans to help rebuild communities after natural or man-made disasters sustainably.
If you want to volunteer or visit to find our more about this project Motor City Blight Busters and The Veteran’s Village volunteer and public visiting hours are every Saturday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Volunteers and visitors meet up at Motor City Java House next to the Redford Theater at 9 a.m.
All photos courtesy of Gordon Soderberg, the Veterans Green Village project, and the Motor City Blight Busters. See more photos of their progress on the Veterans Green Village project HERE.