How an Urban Idea Can Grow

Northwood Alum Shares Urban Forestry Story during Values Emphasis Week

John Hantz lives in Detroit, runs a Detroit-area business, and deeply cares about the city and its people.

So he was concerned about the large number of abandoned homes stubbornly dotting the city’s neighborhoods, even as downtown and other high profile areas enjoy a renaissance. His solution: invest millions of his own dollars to buy abandoned properties from the city, clear the land and grow hardwood trees for a profit.

It worked.

After overcoming stiff resistance by a few neighbors and community activists, his Hantz Farms Detroit organization has transformed more than 2,000 formerly abandoned lots in an area on the city’s East Side, demolishing 54 vacant structures and planting more than 15,000 trees. Residents in the area have delighted in the improvements they’ve seen in their neighborhood, and the Detroit Free Press reported that the median home price in the area went from $15,500 before the project to $74,750 after.

This is the promotional poster for the documentary film Land Grab, which tells the story of John Hantz and his crusade to improve a residential area in Detroit through urban forestry.

Hantz was on Northwood’s campus during this spring’s Values Emphasis Week for a screening of the documentary movie “Land Grab,” which tells the Hantz Farms story. After the screening, he and Sean O’Grady, the film’s producer, took part in a discussion about the project and how it relates to Northwood’s values.

“What I hope happens here is that we say, ‘… A person took a risk, and that risk led to the betterment of a lot of people who lived in that square mile,’ ” Hantz says in the documentary. “This is making a difference. And it is creating hope.”

Hantz and his story were just one of several compelling programs during Values Emphasis Week, which offers a formal, yearly opportunity for Northwood students, faculty, and staff to reflect on moral and ethical values relating to their personal lives, involvement in the community, and their work in the world of business.

Values Emphasis Week originated in 1979 and is rooted in the university’s code of ethics, which provides a roadmap for students, staff, and faculty to advance their shared values. The Northwood code of ethics includes: freedom, respect, empathy, spirituality, honesty, achievement, integrity, and responsibility.

Rich Agenda

Other programs during this year’s Values Emphasis Week included:

Star Parker

  • Star Parker, founder and president of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, a public policy think tank that promotes market-based solutions to fight poverty.

Don Watkins

  • Ayn Rand Institute fellow Don Watkins, co-author ofNorthwood’s spring term Omniquest selection Equal is
    Unfair.
  • Northwood Founder’s Day, with the annual Outstanding Alumni Awards ceremony, featuring keynote speaker Brian Calley, Michigan’s lieutenant governor.