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For Immediate Release: May 23, 2017


New Community Center in Detroit a Model of Sustainability


High performance building materials drive efficiency, optimize energy, sustainability


DETROIT – A network of local and global businesses are collaborating with the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) to transform a long-vacant apartment complex in Detroit’s lower North End into a multi-functional community space that will become one of the most sustainable, energy-efficient buildings in Detroit.


Companies including BASF, General Motors, PPG, and others are working together to reimagine how their materials, systems, and techniques can help transform structures into showpieces of innovation and energy efficiency.


“We’re emphasizing efficiency with some of the most sustainable, progressive building products and techniques available today,” said Tyson Gersh, president and founder of MUFI. “Our Community Center will serve as an example of how we must reinvent the way we plan our buildings, neighborhoods, and communities. Detroit is in a unique position; we have the opportunity to think sustainably and innovatively about the future of our city.”


Featuring more than 30 advanced building materials and systems, the structure will be transformed into one of the most sustainable, energy-efficient buildings in Detroit. The goal is to align with the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. Some materials include:


  • BASF’s energy-saving insulation materials, including spray foam polyurethane

  • Pervious paving materials, such as the strong and durable composite Elastopave®, from BASF

  • Impact-reducing concrete admixtures, including BASF’s Green Sense®

  • Low volatile organic compounds and mildew resistant paints and coatings from PPG

  • Vehicle insulation scrap, repurposed for wall and ceiling insulation from General Motors

  • Forest Stewardship Council certified lumber used in structural and flooring repairs


In addition, wood removed from the existing three-story building will be repurposed into furniture and other items throughout. When complete, the new Community Center will be a gathering space for residents and visitors to host seminars, workshops, educational programs, and more. It will also house a commercial kitchen, and serve as MUFI’s new headquarters.


“Over the last few years, we’ve seen an increased demand for sustainable products to help feed, house, and transport our growing world population amid increasing societal and environmental pressures,” said Doug Brown, Manager, Sustainability Strategy & Business Development - North America at BASF. “By providing BASF building products to the Community Center project, we will help MUFI address of number of these issues and develop a showcase for sustainable solutions.”


Other companies involved in the project include BorgWarner; Stanley Black & Decker; Herman Miller; Green Standards; and Weber Shandwick. 


The quest to revitalize Detroit’s Lower North End began nearly seven years ago with the development of the adjacent two-acre urban farm. The Community Center project is just one example of MUFI’s ongoing effort to enhance its existing neighborhood and build economic value for the community.


Other key features of MUFI’s three-acre agricultural campus include:


  • Urban farm: More than 300 vegetable varieties are grown, providing about 20,000-lbs. of produce annually, or more than 50,000-lbs of produce grown since 2012. The food is free to the more than 2,000 households, food pantries, churches, and businesses within two-square-miles of the farm.

  • High-density fruit orchard: Detroit's most diverse and dense urban orchard featuring about 200 fruit tree varieties.

  • Children’s sensory garden: The garden is an enriched learning environment for children, centered on stimulation of the five senses.


Future projects include:

  • Healthy food café: To be built on a vacant land next to the Community Center, the café will also serve as an event space.

  • Student internship housing: A vacant four-bedroom home will be transformed into student intern housing.

  • Water harvesting cistern: Blighted home repurposed into a water harvesting cistern to irrigate the farm and avoid storm water run-off.

  • Alternative housing model: A sea shipping container converted into a two-bedroom home with full kitchen and bath as a low-cost housing alternative.


Community Center design and construction is managed by Integrity Building Group of Detroit. MUFI’s urban agrihood is featured as a model for sustainable urban planning at Sustainable Brands 2017 global conference, held at the Cobo Convention Center in Detroit, May 22-25. 


For more information about MUFI, visit, email, or call 313-444-MUFI (6834).


About MUFI

Founded in late 2011, the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative is an all-volunteer nonprofit whose mission is to use agriculture as a platform to promote education, sustainability, and community in an effort to uplift and empower urban neighborhoods, solve social problems, and develop a broader model for redevelopment for other urban communities. The group’s focus is the redevelopment and growth of a two-square block in Detroit’s North End known as America’s first sustainable urban agrihood.

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