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DETROIT 2.0 Community Building

Clinic Focuses on Detroit Dedicated to promoting vibrant and sustainable communities, the Community and Economic Development Clinic (CEDC), under the direction of Clinical Professor Alicia Alvarez, provides legal, research, technical, and policy assistance to organizations and groups engaged in a variety of community and economic development efforts in Detroit. Some examples of the recent work by students and faculty advisers in the CEDC: “My note is a practical solution, not an academic exercise,” Leonard says. “It proposes that the City of Detroit, the legal community, and urban farmers look to Michigan’s Brownfield Redevelopment Financing Act to develop a revitalizing framework with which the city and the urban agriculture community can work together towards the common goal they already share, and how lawyers can help foster that relationship.” Passed in 1996, the act authorizes Michigan municipalities to create brownfield redevelopment authorities to facilitate the implementation of brownfield plans, which are intended to revitalize former industrial or commercial properties that are functionally obsolete, blighted, or environmentally distressed. In turn, the act provides incentives to the private sector to play an active role in the revitalization process. “A lot of cities are experimenting with zoning, but none are really incentivizing for a use like urban agriculture,” says Leonard, who also is in the Community and Economic Development Clinic (see more about the clinic’s work in the sidebar). “Detroit’s urban agriculture ordinance is great, but what is needed is to move beyond merely accepting urban farming as a valid land use and instead making it part of the city’s strategic plan going forward.” After graduating, he will begin an Equal Justice Works fellowship, with the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center in Detroit as his host organization. The fellowship will fund his project, which is focused on providing legal assistance to Detroit nonprofit organizations, community groups, and residents involved in urban agriculture in the city. John Deere, Lane & Waterman, and Schiff Hardin are sponsoring the fellowship. “If the city really jumps on urban agriculture, we’ll see it take off and become a significant part of the local food economy as well as a major tool for combatting blight,” Leonard says. “The legal issues surrounding urban agriculture are so new, and because of that there is a lot of uncertainty for the urban agriculture community. If the city takes an active role in incentivizing urban agriculture, a lot of that uncertainty could be reduced, which could help establish an even greater infrastructure for urban agriculture to become a more prominent tool for urban revitalization.”

Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan •

Negotiate commercial lease for restaurant space

Counsel on corporate governance and structuring

Counsel on tax compliance

Negotiate trademark-licensing agreement

Represent and negotiate on personal property tax exemption

Detroit Black Community Food Security Network •

Negotiate licensing agreement with City of Detroit for seven-acre farm

Structure food cooperative

Conduct trademark work before U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Structure producer cooperative

Counsel and represent on corporate compliance

Focus: Hope •

Advise on expansion of greenway in the neighboring community

Draft agreement

Counsel regarding ownership of land

Counsel regarding structure and financing housing cooperative


Quadrangle Spring2014