HAMTRAMCK, Mich. – In 2014, the Detroit Zen Center experienced its worst flooding in their history, with over four feet of storm-sewage water in their basement. Myungju Hillary, the director since 2012, said it was the worst flood the building has ever seen. Hillary estimated the cost of renovating the center at $100,000.

The center slowly rebuilt themselves and recently began working with Ford Rouge Green Roof, Michigan State University “Green Roof Studies” students, and faculty to install a 2,500 square foot livable roof. The center will also add a tea room and bed-and-breakfast type room rentals.

The green roof is going to be able to absorb up to 10,000 gallons of storm water during a rainfall, preventing the flooding of past years. The green roofs have a history of tripling the life of your roof, they heat and cool the spaces below the roof, and they are a natural landscape for bees, butterflies, and birds.

The new livable roof will be able to accommodate 15 seats and stone paths. Reclaimed roof tile planters will go along the edge of the roof. The planters will grow tea, herbs, flowers, and greens while the tea room will offer tea service and light fare.

“Every day, all of outside spaces will be open from sunrise to sunset for tea service and a light menu,” Hillary explains to Model D Media. “We’ll use as much of the space as possible for the community, while still protecting the interior of the space.”

To complete the repairs and the renovations, Hillary and her team needed to find the resources. They decided to create a crowdfunding page to help fund the projects as well as using the proceeds from Hillary’s homemade snacks to finish. Her snacks are also sold in local grocers around the metro Detroit area. The center also creates revenue with their on-site eatery that serves buffet-style meals made by Hillary and her staff of three.

“Seven years ago I discovered the Detroit Zen Center and I really enjoyed my time there,” Jason Eddleston, VP of Operations at Sterling Services in Hamtramck, Mich. “I enjoy going there to meditate. I take clients there for lunch and when I host events, we often cater through the center.

“When I heard they were doing this project; we were more than happy to help.  I live a sustainable lifestyle, so seeing the center use natural resources to help curb flooding and create a model for others to follow in Hamtramck.”

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation stepped up to the plate and approved a grant with a $50,000 dollar matching gift to help with the repairs and the green roof project. Hillary and the center had until December 15, 2018 to reach their $50,000 goal, which they did.

In the Spring of 2019, the center began the installation of the Green Roof Park, Lower Rain Garden, and the Tea-House. The project is hoping to be the litmus test for green roofs in Hamtramck, seeing if this is a sustainable option for their neighbors. Flooding is a huge problem in the city and they believe that this is a solution limit flooding and storm sewer backups in Hamtramck.

The Detroit Zen Center is located on the corner of Casmere and Mitchell Street, north of Caniff and east of Joseph Campau in the city of Hamtramck.

What are Green Roofs & Rain Gardens?

  • A Green Roof is a living roof, that prevents flooding & pollution caused by storm-water runoff
  • A Green Roof absorbs & purifies thousands of gallons of rainwater, and releases it slowly back into the atmosphere. It is also a huge insulator, reducing heating & cooling energy needs in the spaces below
  • Green Roofs create habitat for birds, bees & butterflies, a sanctuary in the city for humans, & a solution for ‘urban heat island’ effect
  • A Green Roof extends the life of a traditional flat roof by 300%, by protecting the roof from the damage of UV rays, and preventing drying & cracking of the structure. Cool, moist roof coverings, ironically, does not cause deterioration and leaks, but prevents them!
  • Green Roofs work as an enormous insulator, up to R-70, and reduce heating and cooling energy use in the space below by up to 30%.
  • Rain Gardens utilize native, high absorbency plants, that can absorb lots absorbs storm-water runoff
  • Rain Gardens use permeable garden surfaces, so that rainwater can run through the surface, slowly filtering back into the earth rather than running into the sidewalks and then sewers
  • Rain Gardens incorporate rain barrels, and also encourage native habitat for local birds, bees & butterflies