Greening and Filling Vacant Real Estate: Repurposing into Urban Gardens

October 10, 2009 by

Auto plant transformed into hydroponic garden: Landscape Architect Rick Kacenski, HOK Planning Group, St. Louis

Hydroponics in Auto Plant? The recent tidal change in local auto production and sales has left numerous idled and shuttered facilities throughout our communities but also opened their doors to new opportunities. The open bay nature of auto plants and showrooms can provide the space for hydroponic and aquaponic greenhouse operations. Empty car lots can house composting and soil improvement operations for the facilities and surrounding communities. The approach would embrace the traditional sustainable and cyclic nature of farming: utilizing passive solar energy, natural light and geothermal heating/cooling, and recycling of water and nutrients through crops and animals and compost. On the community level, it would provide locally grown produce, fish and seedling plants while also generating employment in reused and recycled abandoned facilities.


Community (Kitchen) Garden: Every major city has numerous empty lots, partly a result of decay over the years in underserved communities and the collapse of the residential market in other areas. An informal chat with a planner from Gwinnett County revealed that, just within that county alone, there were about 18,000 parcels subdivided and ready to be developed with housing when the market crashed. All these parcels are candidates for community kitchen gardens. Philadelphia has already implemented an urban kitchen garden policy and many other U.S. cities could benefit from one.

Urban Designer, Chirayu Bhatt, HOK Planning Group, Atlanta

Greening the Freeway: Freeway interchanges can be transformed into self-sufficient, positive contributors to cities. There are a number of urban farming cooperatives in metro areas and small towns of America. Converting the un-usable green gaps of the interchange to usable farm land is a win-win for everyone. With a little motivation, a creative approach to land use and some entrepreneurial spirit in the community, an interchange farm can be up and running in close to no time.

via Damian Joseph, Business Week


  1. Chika Moses said:

    The idea of turning empty lots into farms is smart. I interviewed Lee Mandell, a hydroponic farmer from Bushwick, I got to learn more about the process. He teaches workshops and installs systems locally, but isn’t up to large scale production yet — a goal of his. Perhaps if the Bushwick community converted some of the numerous vacant real estate in the neighborhood in the same way, it would supply the neighborhood with much needed nutrition. Do the empty lots proposed in this case belong to city? Lee Mandell’s story is pretty cool. It’s on my blog —

    — December 10, 2009 @ 10:15

  2. Landscape - vegetable garden - washington dc - dulles va - tysons corner va - arlington va Pingback said:

    […] you to grow indoors or outdoors in any season. And here’s the real dirt (or not): it’s a hydroponic system.It’s Farm in a Box™ EcoTech Design Studio, an innovative new vertical garden system […]

    — June 21, 2011 @ 18:30

  3. 6 Kinds of Hydroponic Gardening Systems Pingback said:

    […] Hydroponics Scandal According to a 1938 Time Magazine article, one of the first commercial uses of hydroponics was based on the research of several scientists from that period at my alma mater, UC Berkeley. […]

    — January 14, 2014 @ 17:46

  4. Guerrilla Architecture: Hacktivist Temporary Urban Housing Pingback said:

    […] to everyone. Like their guerrilla gardening cousins who build gardens, guerrilla architects hack vacant lots, rooftops, billboards, and even dumpsters, turning them into viable shelter for those in […]

    — September 4, 2015 @ 18:30

  5. Urban Hacktivism Reinventing Public Spaces - Urban Gardens Pingback said:

    […] urban hacktivism to experiment with how urban communities can solve problems and build things by reusing spaces, furniture, and objects like free resources within the community’s streets, parks, and vacant […]

    — July 5, 2022 @ 08:51

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

The freshest innovative and eco-friendly designs, trends, and ideas for urban gardens and stylish small places.

Visit Robin Horton @UrbanGardens's profile on Pinterest.

Discover more from Urban Gardens

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading