10
Mar
10

Green thumbs up: Shopping malls into greenhouses

Been in the garden digging. Digging like Kevin Bacon. Have you ever seen Stir of Echoes, where Bacon’s character, post-hypnosis, starts tearing up his garden and even basement? “I’m supposed to dig,” is all he can say, except when he mutters, “Tools.”

That’s how I feel this time of year. Dig. Dirt. Tools.

And it puts me in a good mood, a good enough mood to post a link to a story that is not along my customary lines of  how we’re being boiled alive like a potful of oblivious frogs by a predatory militarist corporatist state. No, reader, this story is a happy one, or at least it features cause for optimism. It’s about one of the best simple ideas I’ve heard in a while: turning unused (or, in this case, underused) mall space into a greenhouse/farm stand.

From Fast Company:

Shopping malls, those bastions of American consumerism, have not been immune to the recent economic downturn. In a recent piece by our own Greg Lindsay, we looked at the impending decline of the mall, which is part of the “single-use environment” category of real estate development that will slowly disappear over the next thirty years, according to one developer. But what will replace these environments, and more importantly, what will happen to the massive malls of today?

One possible solution can be seen in Cleveland’s Galleria mall. The mall lost many of its retail shops over the past few years, leaving gaping holes in the greenhouse-like space. So employees of the Galleria came up with the idea for the Gardens Under Glass project, a so-called urban ecovillage inside the mall that features carts of fruits and vegetables grown on-site. The project was recently given a $30,000 start-up grant from Cleveland’s Civic Innovation Lab.

In the past I’ve written about Detroit and its gradual, if not exactly planned, transition from urban back to rural. Fast Company’s Ariel Schwartz notices the same thing:

We can see it now: the malls of today turned into the suburban (and urban) farming powerhouses of tomorrow. And while we’re at it, why not turn entire economically depressed cities into agricultural centers as well? It’s already happening in Detroit, where entrepreneurs are turning vacant lots into factory-side farms. And if Cleveland’s mall farm works out, maybe New Jersey can become the next big agricultural innovator–the state has the most malls per square mile in the country.

Re-ruralization. It’s already happening. Cool.

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