In the heart of Highland Park, in one of Detroit’s most blighted and abandoned neighborhoods, lies a little village named Avalon that’s ready to go from blight to beauty.
A team of dedicated engineers, futurists, artists, and urban farmers, led by the founder Shamayim “Shu” Harris, are planning to transform their blighted neighborhood in a modern and sustainable eco-village.
With the city of Detroit on the rise, communities in the Metro Detroit area, like Highland Park, are inspired by this same desire of revitalization and regrowth.
We in the Motor City are no strangers to the trials of an economic and cultural downturn. The same fire that fueled the people of Detroit to rejuvenate the city through entrepreneurial, artistic, and philanthropic efforts is burning in the heart of the people of Avalon.
With only five days left to raise money for their campaign, we have the inside look at the origins of the project, as well as the community plans and design, including ways you can help Avalon reach their fundraising goal.
Shu Harris, known in her community as “Mama Shu,” created this vision of Avalon Village after her son Jakobi Ra was killed by a car in 2007. Motivated by her desire for a safer and positive neighborhood environment, her community launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund their dream. Their goal is to create a self-sustaining community for their families.
Laying the Foundation
Phase 1 of this project is set to be completed by late September 2016 and will cost around $250,000, to fund local workers and purchasing materials needed for renovation. They will also need an army of volunteers. Starting from the ground up, Phase 1 starts by laying the foundation for their new village.
From the Ground Up
The village will include new buildings that seek to rejuvenate the community economically, spiritually, and socially.
The first new addition is “The Homework House” that serves as a safe space for children to receive a healthy meal, help on their schoolwork, education on food and urban survival. This will also include a basketball and tennis court next door for outdoor activities and exercise.
The next is the Goddess Market. According to the Avalon Project webpage, Highland Park’s official unemployment rate was over 23%; nearly four times the national average! Built from shipping containers, this unique shopping center is to inspire entrepreneurship and innovation for women in the neighborhood. Their hope is to hold open markets and events that will inspire the public to visit their community.
A sustainable green infrastructure will use rainwater from rooftops and retention ponds; they will be able conserve water to feed the year-round sub-terrain greenhouses and to flush their toilets. By incorporating this new system, the community can afford to receive clean and energy efficient water.
The greenhouse-to-café food system is another step they are taking in their goal of self-sustainment. With community gardening on the rise, Avalon will convert empty lots into greenhouse and urban farms. They will then sell the produce in a once abandoned gas station converted into a farmers market.
The last, but certainly not least step in their blight to beauty initiative is to demolish a vacant house on Avalon Street and build a healing house. This will be used for reiki, yoga, and massage as a way to restore and rejuvenate the community.
How Can I Help?
There are three ways you can support Shu and the Avalon community:
First, you can volunteer in the village by subscribing to their volunteer newsletter. Simply enter your email address to receive updates on the village, including opportunities to volunteer.
Second, you can donate specific items by emailing an Avalon community team member at Justin@theavalonvillage.org.
Third you can provide monetary donations. Every dollar counts in making a difference in Avalon. You can either select a preset amount, or you can select “I just want to help the project,” and enter in your own custom amount and select a reward.
Building A Better Community
This four-phase project is expected to be completed in 2020 and provide a safe and sustainable community of families, visionaries, and entrepreneurs.
With the revitalization and regrowth of Detroit making leaps and bounds in its efforts, let’s strive to promote the same desire of new beginnings by supporting Avalon today!