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Taking farming to the skies

5storeyThis drawing by Kubala Washatko Architects Inc. shows a five-story farm that Growing Power is considering building at its existing 2-acre property on W. Silver Spring Drive. Led by Will Allen, the nonprofit is close to launching a $7 million to $10 million fund-raising campaign for the project.

Milwaukee’s proposed 5 story urban farm

By Karen Herzog
the Journal Sentinel
April 29, 2010


Now all Allen and Growing Power’s board of directors must do is find $7 million to $10 million to build the farm that Allen has been envisioning for nearly two decades to take his nonprofit enterprise to the next level.

Backers say the futuristic urban farm designed to intensively produce vegetables and fish could become an icon for Milwaukee, and a model for cities around the world to grow affordable, healthful food close to consumers. It also could create a whole new industry with thousands of jobs for urban farmers and those who design and build city farms around the world, Allen said Thursday.

The vertical farm – dramatic in shape and with an expansive, sloped glass front to absorb natural light – would be built at Growing Power’s existing 2-acre farm at 5500 W. Silver Spring Drive through local and federal donations and grants. A half-dozen existing greenhouses would be preserved as historic structures.

It would have 23,000 square feet for classrooms, a demonstration kitchen, offices, staff locker room, retail store, food processing, loading dock and freezers. An additional 15,000 square feet of sloped area, facing Silver Spring Drive, would be devoted to growing vegetables and fish. Fish tanks for perch and tilapia would be trenched into the ground. The building would have a rooftop solar panel, would capture rainwater to be recycled for watering plants, and would transfer heat from the building top to a thermal mass underneath to store for future use.

‘First of its kind’

The vertical farm is conceptualized in drawings by Kubala Washatko Architects Inc. in Cedarburg, whose designs have included the Urban Ecology Center, the Iron Horse Hotel and the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center near Baraboo – buildings known for their strong connections to neighborhoods and use of natural light and building materials.

“This would be the first of its kind in the world that we know of,” said architect Allen Washatko, co-founder of the Cedarburg architectural firm. “This concept is intended for areas where land availability is scarce and where ‘going up’ to create agricultural space would be in demand.”

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1 comment

1 jfkalin { 05.01.10 at 8:39 am }

This looks like a beautiful HQ and experiment lab. It’d be a fascinating place to work. I’m dubious about it being a profitable commercial urban farm though. I’m a LEED AP and do case studies and design advice for green building and sustainable development projects. Am an ex-ag extension agent. I consult on commercial rooftop farm projects. I currently am implementing a couple sustainable commercial urban farm incubators in California cities.
I know what it takes to do a cost-effective green building and a profitable urban farm. I look forward to following this project closely. Hopefully they’ll be transparent with their design details, project proforma and farm P&L projections. Will’s work is high-profile these days. It’s important that the building-integrated farm be profitable without needing ongoing subsidies of money or volunteer labor, otherwise it won’t replicate widely if at all. Kubala Washatko is one of the best green architecture firms and done some good work integrating living systems into buildings. Will’s team does fine work too. I hope we’re able to follow the project in detail from the ground up. Whatever happens the results are guaranteed to be really interesting.