Hantz Woodlands

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Hantz Woodlands is an urban tree farm on the lower east side of Detroit. The project has cleared more than 2,000 vacant city-owned lots, totaling more than 140 acres, and has demolished blighted homes to make way for a mile-square hardwood tree farm, bounded by E. Jefferson, Mack, St. Jean and Van Dyke.[1][2] Hantz Woodlands is a project of Hantz Farms, LLC, a division of Hantz Group.[3] It is the largest urban tree farm in the U.S.[4]


John Hantz, twenty-year Detroit native and CEO of Hantz Group, proposed Hantz Woodlands as a way to remedy blight, increase neighborhood safety, and stop the decline of Detroit property values.[5][6][7] Hantz stated that a lack of scarcity caused a continual decline of Detroit’s property values, and suggested that making a large amount of land unavailable could raise property values. “I thought, What could do that in a positive way? What’s a development that people would want to be associated with? And that’s when I came up with a farm,” Hantz says.[7]

The original goal of Hantz Woodlands was to create a horticultural farm; however, concerns over competition with local urban farmers, worries about the use of pesticides, and Hantz's grievances with agricultural taxes led to the conversion of the project to a large-scale tree farm.[8][9][10]


Critics of the Hantz Woodlands project stated that Hantz Farms received an unfairly low price and streamlined purchase procedure for their land, compared to urban farmers who struggled to purchase the land they farmed.[8] In response to this, the Detroit Planning and Development Agency offered neighbors the chance to purchase land that Hantz was interested in.[11]

Concerns also existed over the consolidation of land in one businessman’s hands, with many fearing what would happen if Hantz sold the land to a developer. "[W]e have concern about large amounts of land being amassed in the hands of single individuals," urban farmer Malik Yakini says. "[P]art of the imbalance we see in the world today has to do with large amounts of wealth being amassed by wealthy white men."[12] Many opponents proposed creating a community trust rather than allowing Hantz Farms to purchase the land.[13]

Despite contentious community meetings and a strong activist presence against the project, plans for Hantz Woodlands were approved 5-4 by the Detroit city council in October 2013. [11][14] Kwame Kenyatta, one of the most vocal opponents on the Detroit City Council to the measure, stated that "This is not the way to grow a vibrant city. Just because we have vacant land doesn't mean we should turn Detroit into a farm." [15] Other members of the City Council, such as Saunteel Jenkins, argued that "Farming will be one of the many things that be part of Detroit's reinvention ... The auto industry used to be our bread and butter, but now we have to diversify." [16]

Hantz Woodlands was featured in Sean O'Grady's 2016 documentary Land Grab, which chronicled the discussions within Detroit communities and government over whether Hantz Farms' purchase was a “land grab.”[17] John Hantz describes the Hantz Woodlands project as “definitely a land grab” in the documentary, and states, “you can’t farm without land.”[18]

In recent years, John Hantz and Hantz Woodlands has come under scrutiny for acting in ways similar to speculation, in which large tracts of land are bought and then left alone to accumulate value. In September of 2018, Josh Akers of the Urban Praxis Workshop accused Hantz farms of acting in the interest of themselves rather than the community, saying that "Overall, Hantz Woodlands falls under our working definition of speculation given the quantity of property and their varying conditions." [19] The project has denied these claims, citing their work in maintaining their "1,970 properties"[20] in Detroit.

In May 2018, Crain’s Detroit reported that business cards at a real estate and development conference showed a map of the Hantz Woodlands land with subtitle “Would you like to develop/own the next opportunity in Detroit?” This prompted speculation that Hantz Farms was interested in selling the property, which representatives for Hantz Farms denied.[21]

Planting projects[edit]

The project's 2013 agreement with the city of Detroit called for the demolition of 50 vacant city-owned structures, planting of 15,000 trees, and general maintenance and upkeep of the district properties. In December 2014, Detroit mayor Mike Duggan presented the company with a certificate of completion for having fulfilled this agreement.[22]

In addition to hosting annual tree-planting events, Hantz Woodlands began the Timber Trot 5K in 2016 to benefit the Hantz Foundation.[23]

  • On May 17, 2014, over 1,000 volunteers planted 15,000 maple and oak saplings on 20 acres at Hantz Woodlands.[24]
  • On October 15, 2014, 150 mature sugar maple trees were driven to Detroit from Michigan and New York, and planted at Hantz Woodlands. Keith Alexander, an Oxford-based tree broker, located sugar maples that were straight enough and tall enough to meet Hantz's specifications.[25]
  • On May 9, 2015, volunteers planted 5,000 tulip poplar trees, with the intent to later transport some to a different location.[26]
  • On May 7, 2016, Hantz Woodlands planted 3,150 six-foot-tall sugar maples.[27]
  • On May 6, 2017, volunteers planted approximately 3,000 trees. See images of tree planting 2017

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Goodyear, Sarah (25 October 2013). "A 140-Acre Forest Is About to Materialize in the Middle of Detroit". Atlantic Cities.
  2. ^ "What We Have Done | Hantz Woodlands". www.hantzfarmsdetroit.com. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  3. ^ "Hantz Woodlands". www.hantzfarmsdetroit.com. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  4. ^ Davies, Lauren Ann (18 October 2013). "Hantz Woodlands Gets State OK For Biggest U.S. Urban Farm". Deadline Detroit.
  5. ^ "John R. Hantz: Executive Profile & Biography - Bloomberg". Bloomberg.
  6. ^ "Why is a person cleaning up Detroit getting the runaround from the city?". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  7. ^ a b Smith, Eleanor (2010-10-05). "John Hantz Reimagines Detroit as Urban Farmland". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  8. ^ a b Hester, Jessica Leigh. "Growing Pains for Detroit's Urban Farms". City Lab. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  9. ^ "A growing dream of urban farming: Financier Hantz wants to plant $30M into vacant lots". Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  10. ^ "Detroit City Council OKs land sale to Hantz Woodlands". Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  11. ^ a b "Hantz Woodlands proposal divides Detroit on eve of controversial City Council vote". MLive.com. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  12. ^ "'Land Grab' doc about Detroit's Hantz Farms available on Amazon video". MLive.com. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  13. ^ Koller, Jon (2012-11-30). "A Quick Primer on Hantz Woodlands". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  14. ^ "Detroit City Council OKs land sale to Hantz Woodlands". Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  15. ^ Macmillan, Leslie. "Vast Land Deal Divides Detroit". Green Blog. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  16. ^ Macmillan, Leslie. "Vast Land Deal Divides Detroit". Green Blog. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  17. ^ "Home". Land Grab: The Movie. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  18. ^ "Documentary explores Hantz Farms 'Land Grab' in Detroit". MLive.com. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  19. ^ "Instagram campaign shows effects of Detroit speculation". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  20. ^ "Instagram campaign shows effects of Detroit speculation". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  21. ^ "Is Hantz Farms property up for sale? Owner says no". Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  22. ^ "Hantz Woodlands Fulfills Detroit Blight Removal Project, Adds 15K Trees". dbusiness. 10 December 2014.
  23. ^ "Hantz Woodlands seeks volunteers for Saturday planting". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  24. ^ "Detroit Residents Plant 15,000 Trees in a Day".
  25. ^ "Planting A Walk In The Woods".
  26. ^ "Hantz Woodlands to plant 5,000 more trees on once-blighted lots in Detroit".
  27. ^ "Hantz Woodlands brings thousands of trees to hard-pressed Detroit neighborhoods". Building Design + Construction. Retrieved 2018-11-14.

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