Land-Based Projects: A Path to Purchase, Permit, and Design

May 2019   Detroit, MI


  • City of Detroit


  • Agency Landscape + Planning
  • Detroit Collaborative Design Center
  • Detroit Food Policy Council
  • Keep Growing Detroit
  • The Work Department
  • Great Lakes Environmental Law Center

Key Personnel

Key Points

The City of Detroit sought to clarify their processes, both internal and external, for urban agriculture and other vacant land reclamation projects.

Land Use Processes

Asakura Robinson created infographic flowcharts and one pagers to communicate processes for purchasing land and understanding the permitting process for land uses based on the city’s zoning ordinance.

Public Engagement

The team made monthly visits to Detroit to conduct interviews, hold strategy meetings, and provide progress updates on materials and policy recommendations. AR worked with a diverse team of local advocates and design professionals to help organize meetings with land-based project leaders.

Capacity Building

AR provided policy recommendations to help bridge the gap between residents and government officials to help both sides identify and balance goals for community-based projects, neighborhood concerns, and governmental processes.

Asakura Robinson provided planning services to help an interagency group of 13 different agencies streamline processes and create a public facing interface that residents could use to better understand how to purchase land and permitted uses for land-based projects.

In 2018, the City of Detroit’s Planning Commission began processes to update its zoning ordinance. The goal of this zoning ordinance update was to make it less cumbersome, more accessible, and easier to understand. Part of this updating process was to clearly define an improved process, clearer expectations, and instructions for people seeking to purchase and permit land-based projects.

Asakura Robinson worked as a subconsultant with the city to create a consistent and simplified process for residents who are interested in purchasing land and obtaining permits to implement land-based projects. The firm’s expertise in understanding vacant land and processes for putting vacant land into public use equipped the project team with the tools necessary to build capacity for the city as they worked to improve communication to residents. This project addressed issues with regulating land-based projects and ensuring that projects fit into the neighborhood considering the project’s design.

AR created programming and communication materials for the city to use and expand on to help set clear expectations for the city’s decision-making processes and identify important information that residents need to know upfront, rather than later in the process. The firm collected data from residents, city staff, and land-based project leaders on challenges with the city’s purchasing and permitting processes. Asakura Robinson used this feedback to make recommendations and infographic flowcharts for the purchasing process, permitting process, and good neighbor guidelines.

The project team used a variety of engagement events and activities to guide data collection and recommendations, including surveys for land-based project participants; site tours; focus groups with residents, leaders of land-based projects, and technical assistance providers; and workshops on process and good neighbor issues.

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