Preserving the Environment

From Garbage to Greens: How This D.C. Lot Plans To Make History

May 21, 2014
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From Garbage to Greens: How This D.C. Lot Plans To Make History
Brent Stirton/Getty Images
It will be home to the world's largest urban greenhouse.

The vacant lot tucked away in the District of Columbia’s Anacostia community has long been a wasteland for the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Transportation — serving as a storage facility and a temporary space for leaf collection, respectively.

More recently, construction companies have taken to using the space for illegal dumping, painting a picture of desertion in a struggling neighborhood. But by early next year, city officials are expecting the overgrown area to be transformed.

Into what, you’re probably asking? Impressively, the wasteland is going to be turned into the home of the world’s largest urban greenhouse.

Washington D.C.’s Department of General Services and the Anacostia Economic Development Corporation have teamed up with BrightFarms, a New York-based firm that builds and manages greenhouses and rooftop farms across the country. (BrightFarms has spearheaded urban greenhouses and rooftop farms in New York, Chicago, St. Paul, Minn., and St. Louis, Mo., among others.)

Authorities expect the 100,000 square-foot greenhouse to produce 1 million pounds of produce — such as tomatoes, leafy greens and herbs — to be sold at 30 Giant grocery stores throughout the greater Washington, D.C. area, according to the National Journal.

The Anacostia community itself, which grapples with high unemployment and crime as well as a lack of fresh-food options, will also benefit from the new project. Some of the greenhouse produce will be sold to local merchants at a subsidized rate while also providing between 20 and 25 new permanent jobs as well as 100 construction jobs, according to BrightFarms.

MORE: From Windowsills to Rooftops, Check Out the Rise of Urban Farming

“We can make a meaningful impact on the food supply chain and help improve it, lessen the environmental impact, and improve the health, the safety, and the quality of our produce that’s available,” said Toby Tiktinsky, BrightFarms’ director of business development.

The transformed space will also serve as a classroom for students to learn about sustainable farming and healthy eating.

Construction is expected to start late this summer and take up to five months to complete, turning this community blight into a neighborhood bright spot.

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