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Designing a Green Roof for Community Re-vitalization and Empowerment

Flint, Michigan

Featured image for the project, Designing a Green Roof for Community Re-vitalization and Empowerment


Once a hub for automobile manufacturing, Flint, Michigan has faced several environmental and economic hardships since the 1960s.  Situated 65 miles northwest of Detroit, the city is the fourth largest in the state of Michigan.   After General Motors downsized its workforce in the 1960s, the city lost half its population and sank into a deep economic depression.  Crime rates sky-rocketed and job opportunities diminished.  Most recently the city has battled a public health crisis involving drinking water contaminated by lead.  Despite its recent history, many initiatives are underway to revitalize Flints’ communities: socially, environmentally and economically.  The Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village (SBEV) aims to do just this.  The organization’s vision is to transform Flint into a just and equitable city by investing in youth. Located in the former Dewey school building in Northern Flint, SBEV provides a 62,000 square foot space for the young people of Flint to “learn, earn, develop, lead, and invest in their individual development, as well as the development of their communities.”   Their building includes a 20,000 square foot roof, 60% of which is flat, with 40% on a slant.

Nearing 100 years old, the SBEV building is currently being renovated to increase the sustainability and energy efficiency of operations – and to better accommodate educational, training and job placement services for Flint’s youth.  Part of this upgrade will include the installation of Flint’s first green roof. While a basic function of the roof will be to achieve energy efficiency objectives, SBEV sees an opportunity to enhance the roof to reflect and embody their commitment to youth education, empowerment and sustainability.  They wish to create a green roof environment that local Flint residents can take pride in and consider a local asset, and that will inspire similar projects in the community.

This project has been conceived and designed in partnership with community leaders at SBEV.

About the Community

Maryum Rasool, Executive Director of the Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village (SBEV) and Saadia Shah, intern at SBEV, will serve as the community leads.

The community leads commit to engaging with the scientific partner on this project and providing strategic direction to ensure that the green roof plan is well integrated with SBEV’s programs and priorities. In consultation with the scientific partner, the community leads will develop language and apply for funding opportunities to make the green roof a reality.


Notes from the Field: February 2019

We’ve heard project updates are the #1 thing you want from our newsletter. Starting this month, we’ll have links to Notes from the Field, where you get updates straight from the communities and scientists we work with. This month, updates from Flint, Michigan; Cambridge, Ohio; DeSoto, Missouri; and Cicero/Berwyn, Illinois.

Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village Visits MSU to Hear Design Presentations

From Canada’s Chemical Valley to the “Heart of Flint”: Field Notes on Environmental Justice

All updates for this project

Project Team

Community Leads

Maryum Rasool, MSA, is the Executive Director of the Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village, a community organization on the north side of Flint that offers both academic and athletic programs to underserved, at-risk youth. Originally from Boston, Ms. Rasool traveled the world with her family until they eventually settled in Flint when she was young. Bridging Flint’s unique neighborhoods and serving its equally diverse people, Ms. Rasool also sits on the Boards of Directors for the YWCA and Wellness Services. On issues ranging from educational and nutritional deficiencies to economic and water crises, Ms. Rasool works tirelessly to transform Flint into a just and equitable city by removing the structural barriers that can prevent children from reaching their full potential.


Scientific Liaisons

Dr. Jon Burley is an Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at Michigan State University.

Rayshaun L. Landrum is an Associate Landscape Architect for the City of Detroit and recent graduate student from the School of Planning, Design, & Construction Masters Program of Environmental Design at Michigan State University (MSU). His masters topic related to the focus of urban green infrastructure implementation.