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Garage roof garden is what's growin' on in Pontiac

Ame Houston’s story of growth in Pontiac is quite literal. As co-founder and co-chair of Serendipity Seeds, a sprouting nonprofit dedicated to bringing green spaces to the urban center of downtown Pontiac, Houston is driven by dreams of creative reuse of the top story of the parking garage adjacent to Pontiac’s historic Riker Building, a 10-story 1928 office tower that has recently undergone internal redevelopment.

Tip top of the six-story parking garage is the new home of RootTop Pontiac, a collaborative effort of Houston and her partners Tad Reiner, Houston Robertson, and Stephanie Love, a group of volunteers, and some undisclosed investors in Pontiac and Oakland County.

The project is scheduled to roll out in six phases between this summer and next summer. Meanwhile, plants are sprouting in Houston’s home in Pontiac.

“It’s like a tiny farm in my house right now. There’s a lot of lettuce growing in my extra bedroom,” Houston says.

Plants were specially chosen to thrive in containers and planter troughs in a rooftop setting and grow vegetables or encourage pollination. A future plan is to grow hops on trellis walls, then see the hops used by local brewhouse Fillmore 13.

The weight of the containers, fully loaded with root systems and wet soil, were specially calculated to be appropriate for the space.

“Tad [Reiner] is a mechanical designer for a sustainable engineering company, and a student at Oakland University, so it helps to have his skills on our team,” says Houston. Currently studying greenhouse gardening, with the goal of becoming a master gardener, Houston brings her own green thumb to the project, and, as an embroiderer at Pontiac’s Earth 2 Earth, an artistic flair, as well.

In its roots, the effort is collaborative, pulling in the skills of many volunteers. "Jonathan Sterns is a young architect who has donated much of his time and expertise to the project," says Reiner. "He provided renders and code knowledge while asking for absolutely zero in return. We're super grateful to him."

Eventually, the RootTop space will be available to rent for events, or for educational purposes.

“We are happy to be able to reimagine this underutilized parking space,” says Houston. “We have a lot of passion in urban agriculture. We see green spaces popping up in Detroit, and want to bring this to Pontiac.”
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