Up on the roof in Midtown Detroit one recent sunny spring day were 20 members of several garden clubs from Grosse Pointe. These ladies, including four octogenarians, had just climbed up on the roof to see the rooftop garden at Traffic Jam and Snug (TJ’s), one of Midtown Detroit’s favorite restaurants. In addition to its great food, TJ’s is also a bakery, micro-brewery, dairy and cheese maker and now rooftop urban garden pioneer.
While giving new meaning to the term “ladies who lunch,” they were fascinated by the technology, the clever use of space, the vista of Midtown Detroit and the variety of herbs and plants that go from rooftop, to kitchen, to plate –now that’s locally sourced food!
This tour was actually a bonus for the garden club members who had just enjoyed lunch along with an impressive presentation by Kirsten Lyons who works at Midtown’s Green Garage and Green Alley as a master gardener and recycling coordinator. She was joined by another Green Garage and Green Alley veteran Mitzi Carter.
The women were captivated by the story of the Green Garage, Midtown’s green business incubator housed in a sustainably renovated former Model T showroom. They were particularly taken with the history and installation of the Green Alley, a unique sustainable greenway and garden in the alley it shares with Motor City Brewing Works, which it partnered with on the project along with support from Midtown Detroit.
According to the Green Alley’s wiki page, “It was intended to create a model for sustainable alleys of the future for our city and region. So often an alley is a visible representation of the worst of our culture…the waste, trash, concrete…no life…an urban wasteland. And yet, we long for a more respectful relationship with the earth than our alleys represent. Our alley spaces have great possibilities. We need to just envision a new future and make it happen. Who knows where this may lead? All we need is one green alley…and then another.”
With enthusiastic backing and backbreaking work by Green Garage’s founders Peggy and Tom Brennan and Motor City Brewing Works’ John Linardos, along with dedicated staff and volunteers, work began in spring 2010. Together with careful design, preparation and cultivation, the Green Alley uses a selection of mostly native Michigan plants in a carefully constructed hard scape that has resulted in a garden way that is now watered entirely by rainwater collected in rooftop and underground cisterns. It’s been a win/win for the Midtown community. The alley way has gone from eyesore to green gem serving as a demonstration project for rainwater capture and use in other alleys and applications while still meeting the access needs of emergency vehicles.
As the garden club members saw firsthand, today the Green Alley is a vibrant greenway for pedestrians and bicyclists to enjoy the beautiful gardens, stop and shop at local business establishments or gather with a few neighbors to talk about the day. All in all, the ladies were impressed with the incredible work being done in Midtown Detroit and are already cultivating their next field trip to Detroit.