Businesses, community need to join up care for trees and plants in commercial districts

Attractive landscaping with plantings, flowers, and street trees is important in the creation of vibrant urban spaces. With city budgets dwindling communities and business groups must work together to ensure plants and trees are well maintained.

Many of the concepts of creating vibrant urban places and spaces include greenery. This greenery can take the form of plantings, hanging basket plants, grass strips, and street trees. The challenge in some of Detroit’s most depressed commercial areas is restoring and sustaining the street greenery. Planners have learned that such greenery is not only cosmetically attractive but may aid in the reduction of storm water runoff.

Community-based development organizations can sometimes secure funds to plant trees, flowers, improve the right-of-way and improve the storefronts in some neighborhood commercial districts attempting to revitalize themselves. But, the real challenge is the issue of sustainability. Who will maintain and nurture the young trees? Who will plant new flowers annually and ensure that the grass is cut and maintained? Historically, this role has been the responsibility of the city, which owns and controls right-of-way street spaces. However, budget cuts and shortfalls have severely reduced cities’ abilities to effectively carry out that role.

Once again a look at best practices suggest that the solution lies with local business owners, community gardening groups, community development corporations, block clubs and even local business associations. The various groups will need to find creative ways to support not only their storefronts but the right-of-way space as well. The goal is to see, understand and plan for spaces in a more holistic manner. Streets, greenery, roads, sidewalks, curb cuts, parking lots, the business mix, windows, street lighting and crosswalks are all elements of the urban form. In vibrant urban spaces, these elements work together to create an interesting and desired place to be.

Who will take care of the street trees? The whole community must. Block clubs can plant flowers; business owners can water and take care of the greenery in front of and around their establishments, the city can maintain and upgrade the streets, sidewalks, curb cuts and other parts of the physical roadway. Cities can also create incentives to encourage the adoption of street trees and other greenery. Foundations can fund the planning for appropriate locations for new trees, hearty flowers and bushes. Garden clubs can aid in the planting and care of flowers and other shrubbery.

Community-based organizations can coordinate all the activities between the different players. The community will need to work together to help sustain these urban places because the foundation of good places is people working, living, and playing together and taking ownership for the spaces in their neighborhoods.

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