- Facebook: @DetroitHives
- Instagram: @detroithives
- Website: detroithives.com
Detroit birthed Motown Records, techno music, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and so much more. It was once the world’s automotive capital—also known as “Motor City”—but when the automotive industry moved from assembly-line positions to automation, tens of thousands of jobs were lost, leaving the once-booming city in crisis. After the great recession, property values plummeted. Detroit continued to over-value homes while simultaneously failing to lower taxes to meet falling property values.
In 2010, eighty-five percent of homes in Detroit were over-assessed. Many evaluations were so high they violated the state constitution, which has led to one in three Detroit properties being foreclosed on. When the automobile factories shut down, many were left abandoned. Homes are foreclosed on and often never reoccupied, left to rot right before the eyes of Detroit residents. The ensuing neglect has left many locals suffering, resulting in a city with the highest concentration of poverty in any large city in America, proliferating Detroit’s extreme urban blight—when a functioning city, or part of a city, visually deteriorates and decays.
But one couple, Timothy Paule and Nicole Lindsey, are creating a buzz around the blight. Paule and Lindsey are Co-Founders of Detroit Hives. They hope to heal the city medicinally, environmentally and socially by taking its vacant lots and turning them into beekeeping apiaries. The idea blossomed after a Detroit market owner suggested Paule try local honey to get over a cold. When the honey helped his sickness subside, he realized their neighborhood needed access to the benefits of raw, organic honey. “When we found out about local honey,” Lindsey explains, “we thought, ‘Why not bring this to Detroit, because a lot of apiaries are further out, like two to three hours away . . . why not bring this type of apiary to the inner city of Detroit?’” “Detroit has well over 90,000 vacant lots,” Paule adds. “We wanted to take these vacant lots and offer the same product to help other people like myself.”
Now they have two lots. The first, on East Warren Avenue, houses three hives but will have closer to ten this upcoming season. The second is a commercial parking lot on State Fair and Hoover that they project will have closer to twenty hives. “The first vacant [lot] we purchased was an eyesore,” Paule recalls. “It was literally a dumping ground, loaded with tires, trash and debris.” But they didn’t have to clean it alone. Family, friends and local community organizers heard about what they were doing and came out to lend a helping hand.
With contributions from other local organizations, these lots have become more than apiaries; they’re a source of optimism and opportunity in the community. Detroit Hives not only takes blighted areas and cleans them up, it also informs and invests in communities that have been disregarded for far too long. “Peace Tree Parks is a community organization,” Paule notes. “We partnered with them, and they brought two garden plots of vegetables. We took those vegetables and gave them away to the community.” Detroit Hives will be working with local beekeepers and gardeners to keep this outreach going in the second lot as well. “A lot of the produce there will go to a homeless shelter or residents,” Paule continues. “It will also be educating the community about pollinators, their importance to our environment, and the importance of organic food.”
For those at Detroit Hives, this is bigger than bees. As Lindsey puts it: “We wanted to revitalize our neighborhood.” And it seems they’ve begun to do just that. “Since we’ve been in the community,” Lindsey observes, “we’ve been inspiring people there to clean up their property.” Looks like the bees aren’t the only ones contributing to a blossoming Detroit future.