The FREE Project
"The “FREE” Project, formally known as the Framework and Resources for Empowering Environments is a pilot beautification project created by Scott Douglas and Joseph Gruber for their University of Detroit Capstone Project. In recent months, the City of Detroit has done much to address blight. However, the issue of blight is one of scale."
The City still lacks the resources to address all of the blight issues within Detroit’s limits let alone maintain them. At the same time, many local landscaping businesses have lacked the opportunity to be a part of Detroit’s renewal story because they lack the experience and expertise to tackle large projects.
Our aim is to address both of these problems while challenging community members and organizations to lead in the renewal of their neighborhoods. The “FREE” project is an innovative and creative approach to creating community assets by removing the physical decay and blight from vacant lots within the City of Detroit neighborhoods.
The “FREE” Project I partnered with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Disadvantage Business Enterprises (DBE), Union of Operating Engineers Local 324, Michigan Laborers’ Training and Apprenticeship Institute, and the Access For All students who all worked together to remove the blight from eleven parcels of vacant land.
On September 22-25, 2015 the “FREE” Project I successfully broke ground and began clearing the 11 vacant lots at an estimated cost of $35,000. Residents were ecstatic about the removal of the overgrown grass, brush, and trees. Residents are now able to walk on the sidewalk, safely play in the field or walk or ride their bike around the perimeter of this green space.
On December 1-3, 2017 The FREE Project II took place on 18 parcels of highly blighted vacant land. Our sponsor, Team Rubicon, along with Motor City Blight Busters, Woodward Avenue Restoration District (WARD) volunteers, and community volunteers helped to remove 50+ dead/diseased trees and overgrown grass and brush at an estimated cost of $31,075. Helping to pave the way for the creation of a beautiful public space that will have a positive impact on the entire community.
The project was very successful and many residents asked if trees could be removed from their yard. For our next blight project slated for early spring of 2018, we will assist residents with the removal of dead, diseased or fallen trees from their property helping to create a safer environment.
The FREE Project has created a positive social impact on the community by empowering residents and fostering positive social change that has encouraged community-based action, which is vital to the social and economic health of the McDougall-Hunt community.
The success of this project has served as a catalyst and model for successful community development throughout the City of Detroit.
The Free Project Video