growing community, local economies, and healthy environments

GrowTown is a non-profit organization dedicated to enabling neighborhoods, left fragmented in post-industrial cities and landscapes, to self-organize. Through grassroots community-driven design and local leadership. The Local Food Economy is the catalyst for growing resilient and sustainable neighborhoods that can respond to important challenges of our time.

Critical issues facing post-industrial cities—food security, high unemployment, poverty, vacant land and fragmented neighborhoods—act as barriers to opportunity. GrowTown provides the framework and support to create enabling spaces and connections that make the growth of dynamic and sustainable communities possible … from the ground up.

growtown centers on four main principles:

1. the local food marketplace

food is a basic need connecting everyone

2. spatial design

including civic spaces at the neighborhood level

3. the growtown toolbox

local energy and initiative + knowledge, tools, and resources

4. the ‘it starts now!’ action plan

low cost stuff people can do right now

Central to the GrowTown concept is the spatial design of civic spaces at the neighborhood level. Civic space is a key feature that enables social interaction and place identity to evolve and grow. The Local Food Economy and its marketplace is a natural focus for civic engagement and activities that cultivate relationships and connections necessary to build successful social and economic networks. Healthy green spaces, or as we like to say, Vitamin G, offer safe creative play opportunities for children and adults and are essential for human and environmental well-being.

GrowTown offers a ToolBox of low-cost, adaptable solutions to harness positive community energy into distinctive centers of growing community. The ToolBox combines local energy and initiative with knowledge, tools and resources to make things happen. We believe a simple idea and a small opportunity can change a whole community. Creative recycling of existing infrastructure and local assets and an adaptable resource of doable, low-cost and even no-cost ideas and solutions makes it possible for people and neighborhoods to envision projects and start change immediately.

Our team excels in neighborhood and regional analysis and planning, bringing a working knowledge of landscape, housing, urban form and policy, ecological systems and design of public space. The GrowTown model places local food system businesses into a complex matrix of activities, increasing the potential for an economically diverse and resilient community system. We support innovation and growth of small cottage industries and local businesses, especially those that employ and empower local youth and encourage local mentoring relationships. Local economic and social life creates the fertile ground that invites further levels of growth and development.

growtown team

Kenneth Weikal RLA, ASLA
Princlipal, Kenneth Weikal Landscape Architecture; 21 years providing site planning, Landscape Architecture, native and sustainable landscape design, specializing housing – affordable, single, and multifamily, senior campuses and senior care facilities, parks and public spaces.

Beth Hagenbuch, BLA, ASLA
Partner, Kenneth Weikal Landscape Architecture; 10 years in concept, design, and project management, graphic communication, organic vegetable gardening/nutrition. Fluent in Spanish.

Stephen Deak RLA, LEED AP
Principal, Deak Planning and Design; Master planing and land planning, Landscape Architecture for housing, mixed use, retail, and entertainment.

David Peterhans
Principal in design firm C3; Industrial designer with 30 years experience in product, graphics, interior and exterior architecture, recognized nationally/internationally for numerous restoration projects in adaptive re-use for commercial facilities.

growtown advisory board

Jon Goodman, PH.D
Strategy/Microeconomics; President – Town Hall Los Angeles National Authority on Urban Economic Development; Winner of 1989 Council on Urban Economic Development (CUED) “Most Innovative Economic Development Program”, 1989-2002 University of Southern California, 1989 – 1995 Professor and Chair of the Entrepreneurial Studies Department, 1995 – 2002 Professor, Annenberg Fellow and Executive Director of the Annenberg Incubator Project: 1980-1989 University of Houston, 1980 – 1984 Professor and Chair of the Business Policy and Strategy Department, 1984 – 1989 Professor and Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Small Business Development Center
LinkedIn // townhall-la.org

John Biernbaum, PH.D
Michigan State University Professor of Horticulture and Organic FarmingFrom 1998 to present, worked with undergraduate and graduate students to develop the MSU organic farm – currently 10 total acres with 13,000 square feet under cover and 7 acres in cultivation. Including  organic transplant production, winter production and harvesting of baby salad greens, year-round organic vegetable production; production and use of compost for fertility, transplant media and water extracts (tea) for managing soil and plant health; effect of irrigation method and water quality on nutrient management in peat-based media; fertilization methods for peat-based media. Social emphasis is on both ecological farming and cultivating connections between the community and farmers. Dr. Biernbaum has been invited to talk in 19 states over a five-year period, and has been providing educational programs for small-scale organic farmers through the Organic University and MSU Extension including organization of the Michigan Conference on Organic Agriculture (3 yrs) and Organic sessions for the Great Lakes Fruit and Vegetable Expo (4 yrs)
MSU Organic Farm // John Biernbaum

Rod Hagenbuch
Financial management / nonprofit governance; co-founder of the Quantum Leap Institute consulting firm, specializing in the Financial Services Industry, Corporations and non-profits. Recipient of the Municipal League Man of the Year, the Urban League National Volunteer award; currently serves on the boards of Los Angeles Red Cross, Los Angeles United Cerebral Palsy, Los Angeles Town Hall and Univ. of Washington-Tacoma School of Urban Studies Advisory Board

Seth Harry AIA, CNU
Architect and planner, specialist in Urban Design and Town Planning; 25 years of experience in sustainable neighborhood developments and communities, new and infill mixed use developments and community revitalization plans and strategies.

Mark Johnson, Architect
Board Member, Woodward Avenue Action Association

Patrick Lindemann
Ingham County Drain Commissioner, Watershed Resource Strategist.

Marc Zupmore
Detroit DTE Energy Gardens Project Manager