It's a bit late in the day to throw to this project, but there's a fascinating story of an experiment by tenants in Melbourne to turn their backyard into a permaculture environment over here:
Even the battle they've been having with their landlord is interesting, a great story.
In early February 2004 Jane and I attended the excellent Media City film and video festival in Windsor, (Ontario, Canada). Windsor is the city that Mike Moore features (briefly) in Bowling for Columbine, as a contrast to Detroit (which is just across the river in the USA). Canadians, he claims, leave their doors unlocked, and don't kill each other with guns, even though they still own a lot of them. Well, we don't know about the guns, but have yet to meet any Canadians who admit to leaving their front doors unlocked. So, Moore might have been taking a little cinematic licence on that one. In Detroit, however, there are plenty of open doors, windows, and rooftops just asking to be walked into. In a one hour walk from downtown up Woodward Street towards the Detroit Institute of Arts, (where we saw the amazing Diego Rivera Industry mural) we shot almost 60 empty buildings, including some stunning old skyscrapers – and, a short walk away, the sombre ex-Railway Station, apparently empty for more than 20 years. I have posted the pics up here.
Scooting around the web, it's obvious that I am by no means the first to document some of the abandoned sites of Detroit. The excellent Infiltration gang has a whole page o' links, and this local infiltrator at detroitblog has strong and sometimes convincing views about the city's empty spaces as a rich architectual heritage (not needing fixing), evidently a view not shared by the blightbusters group, who want to buy 'em up, fix 'em up (or knock 'em down). There is also an article about trees growing on the rooftops of long-forgotten downtown blocks, and a very thorough photographic tour, and spirited discussion forum about Abandoned Detroit. A very funny (though in the end quite sobering) weekly "un-real estate" listing is posted in the Detroit Metro Times newspaper. There's heaps more if you have time and are handy on google. It's obviously a big issue for many many locals.