The City of Detroit Land Bank attempts to block Heidelberg Project development

For Immediate Release: 


City Officials Deny Application, Refuse to Provide Rationale


DETROIT —The City of Detroit Land Bank is refusing Detroit’s iconic Heidelberg Project the opportunity to acquire city-owned land that the Heidelberg Project’s founder Tyree Guyton has been maintaining for over 31 years. 

“The Heidelberg Project and Tyree Guyton have been taking care of this land for 31 years,”  said Heidelberg Project President and CEO Jenenne Whitfield. “We’ve brought people from all over the world to Detroit to see how a forgotten neighborhood can use art to create hope and build bridges. We are lifelong Detroiters who have made a difference in this city and we’re being told we have no voice in the future of our neighborhood.” 

The Heidelberg Project attracts roughly 275,000 visitors each year, generating millions in economic impact for the City Detroit. READ: Study: Heidelberg Project has $3.4 million annual impact (Crains Detroit). 

Guyton and a team of workers have cut the grass, plowed the snow, trimmed the landscape and removed debris from the city-owned properties surrounding the Heidelberg Project for 31 years. In recent years, the cost of labor has totaled almost $30,000 annually. The Heidelberg Project owns thirteen lots in the neighborhood and has attempted to purchase about 40 other lots from the City of Detroit as part of Heidelberg 3.0, a vision to create a self-sustaining arts and culture village.

The Heidelberg Project applied to purchase the land through the Detroit Land Bank’s Community Partner Program, established by Mayor Mike Duggan in 2014. According to the Land Bank website, the program was created to encourage faith and community-based organizations to transform the neighborhoods in which they serve through home rehabilitation projects, deconstruction projects, new construction, lot beautification, community gardens, and pocket parks.

The Land Bank denied the Heidelberg Project’s community partnership application twice, most recently in late June in spite of the fact that the Heidelberg Project meets all criteria and has received a letter of support from Councilwoman Mary Sheffield who represents the district.

“This administration preaches about residents having a voice in their neighborhoods and about making Detroit a more equitable city but their actions tell you they have a very different agenda,” said Whitfield.  “Land ownership is the most basic form of equity and we’ve been denied that opportunity. If the City has a different plan for this neighborhood, they should be honest and share it with us and the rest of the residents.” 

For the past 30 years, The Heidelberg Project has served Detroit through community engagement and arts education programs, non-profit work and the internationally renowned art installations of founder Tyree Guyton. 

Guyton announced he would begin to dismantle parts of the installation in August 2016 to make way for Heidelberg 3.0, a new vision to transform the neighborhood from an arts installation driven by one man to a self-sustaining arts and culture village embraced by the larger community.  

READ MORE: Heidelberg Project chief: City of Detroit hindering growth (Detroit Free Press) 

READ MORE: Detroit Land Bank rejects Heidelberg Project expansion (Metro Times) 


About The Heidelberg Project

Founded in 1986 by Detroit-based artist Tyree Guyton, The Heidelberg Project is a Detroit-based community organization that has used art as a catalyst to breathe life into the community, transforming detritus into public, outdoor art installations. Designed to improve the lives of people and neighborhoods through art, our mission is to inspire people to appreciate and use artistic expression to enrich their lives and to improve the social and economic health of their greater community. The theory of change for The Heidelberg Project begins with the belief that all citizens, from all cultures, have the right to grow and flourish in their communities. The Heidelberg Project believes that a community can re-develop and sustain itself, from the inside out, by embracing its diverse cultures and artistic attributes as the essential building blocks for a fulfilling and economically viable way of life.