Thompson Elementary School in Highland Park has been vacant for 20 years. It's a scrapped-out shell of a building, reflecting the economic troubles of the city overall.
But now, there's a plan for it. The proposed Parker Village project will convert the school into a community center surrounded by energy efficient, net-zero homes that its developer, Juan Shannon, is calling a "smart neighborhood."
The plan is for the community to incorporate renewable energy sources and technologies like motion-sensing street lights, electric vehicle charging stations, and aquaponic gardens.
Shannon is seeking grants and equity partners to complete funding for the project. It will be a for-profit business, partnered with nonprofits for programs and activities. "That way we could give back to the community but also be involved in social enterprise," says Shannon.
Shannon says Highland Park was chosen for the Parker Village project in an effort to rehabilitate the city's troubled economy. "If we were to address some of the things that are no longer here, like school and trade programs, we would be able to help revitalize the city," says Shannon.
Michigan law requires new developments to be tied to the existing power grid, so Parker Village will not be powered 100% by renewable energy technologies. However, Shannon says he is planning to incorporate a microgrid, which would give the community a backup source of power in case of a major regional outage.
The surrounding neighborhood would be comprised of net-zero single- and multi-family homes, meaning the total energy used by the homes would be equal to the energy produced by the home through solar or geothermal energy.
"We plan on doing things like farmer's markets, and any of our unused food we would donate, food waste would be returned to compost, fertilizer, and fish feed. The idea is to recycle and reuse as much as we possibly can throughout the facility," says Shannon.
According to Shannon, Parker Village would be one of the first smart neighborhoods in the country. He says that a development partner will be chosen to manage construction within the next 7 to 10 days. "Our next step is to apply for LEED certification of the project, which has to be done before construction begins. We will begin sectioning the properties on March 24, with hopes of starting and completing phase 1 by this fall," says Shannon.*
*This post was last updated on Feb. 2 at 6:00 PM.