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Avalon Village: A Blighted Detroit Neighborhood Turned Eco-Village

Residents in Highland Park, Michigan—a small city in Detroit—will soon have a brand-new eco-village in their neighborhood, featuring a handful of eco-friendly facilities like a greenhouse food system, a female-led marketplace, and a K-12 academic support center. The eco-village, which will be named Avalon Village, is a significant accomplishment for the area that lost their city streetlights to debt in 2011—two years before Detroit filed for bankruptcy—and reported an official unemployment rate as high as 23% in 2014. 

One resident, Shamayim “Shu” Harris, saw hope amidst despair during those hard times. After directing the installation of Highland Park’s first solar streetlights with the help of a community organization in 2014, Harris is now leading a bigger project to build an eco-village--the Avalon Village-- in the city.


rendering of sustainable green infrastructure via Avalon Village

In Harris' vision, vacant lots can turn into a greenhouse-to-café food system where people do community gardening and urban green space, and an abandoned gas station can turn into a farmers market and a café. Salvaged shipping containers can turn into a marketplace specializing in women-run businesses, and abandoned houses can turn into a K-12 after-school academic support center and community healing center. Harris' vision will be realized during the first phase of the project, estimated to be completed by late September 2016. 

After years of work acquiring the land, seeking government permits, and recruiting building and environmental experts, the project is ready to get started, Harris said in an online statement. The entire four-phase Avalon Village project is expected to be finished in by 2020, and will cost around $4,000,000 for materials and labor. 

Harris started to plan for the project about nine years ago, when her two-year-old son was killed by a hit-and-run driver. That accident, she said, completely changed her life.

“I felt that I really didn’t have anything else to lose after that,” Harris said in a video. “So I could just go ahead and I just felt this strong energy behind me to do it and also the energy that it will be done, too.” 

In later phases, more construction and upgrades will be made to Avalon Village. The healing house, for instance, will stretch into a one-stop shop for restorative and rejuvenating healing practices like reiki, yoga, and massage. More alternative business and living spaces made out of shipping containers will also be added in following years. 

The Avalon Village project is currently crowd-funding on Kickstarter, aiming to raise a total fund of $37,695 by June 23, 2016.

Check out this video about Avalon Village.

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