Old Malls as Urban Farms?

SUBHEAD: An excuse for a food-court? This seems more a publicity stunt than a serious effort to grow vegetables. Is there any petroleum involved? Image above: Roof of failing Cleveland Galleria Mall in Erieview, Ohio, has been converted to "Gardens Under Glass". Talk about blowing green smoke up your skirt.

By Lloyd Alter on 6 June 2010 in TreeHugger.com - (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/06/new-uses-for-old-malls.php)

Ever since Architect Eb Zeidler riffed on the Galleria in Milan for his Eaton Centre in Toronto in the '70s, a lot of malls have been covered with glorious glass roofs. Many downtown malls were built as urban renewal and revitalization projects, but few of them thrived; after killing off the main street retail around them, they most have died on their own.

But they still have those glorious glass roofs. PSFK points us to Cleveland, where Gardens Under Glass is trying to put them to work, as an urban farm.

The proponents of the scheme note:

It is the ideal location for a project of this nature due to its structural design that provides a year round controlled environment, perfectly conducive to successful implementation. At the project's root is an urban farm that will use a system called "recirculating greenhouse hydroponics" to grow produce such as tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, herbs, peppers, sprouts, mushrooms and flowers.

But that year round controlled environment is expensive to maintain. Gardens under glass isn't only about the food, but it is also:

an urban agricultural center that will produce, inform and educate the Cleveland community about the importance of growing green. The gardens will in turn cultivate businesses with a similar mindset.

So the farm becomes a magnet for food related retail, such as restaurants, a year round indoor farmers market, a garden supply store and a health food store. That is the real promise of the idea.

Vicky Poole, who does marketing for the mall, talked to Grist:

Poole's vision for the mall is both a master marketing tool -- this one, like so many of its mid-80s brethren, was in dire straights not long ago, with dozens of vacancies in its 200 stores -- and an inventive way to promote sustainability in what has proven to be a largely unsustainable architectural dinosaur. It's pretty hard to find alternate uses for 100,000-plus square feet of mostly windowless space. "I don't look at us as a mall anymore," she says. "We really serve the downtown business community."

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