Long-time Newarkers may think of our city as the home of many surprisingly wonderful things, but this is something completely different.
Vertical farming. In Newark.
A former Grammer, Dempsey and Hudson steel plant in the Ironbound section of Newark is being razed by the RBH Group to make way for a giant custom-built complex for its sole tenant, AeroFarms, a company producing herbs and vegetables in an indoor, vertical environment. Instrumental in reviving parts of Newark, the RBH Group sees the venture as a way to create jobs, clear a shabby block and supply a healthy, locally grown food source.
There’s some familiar names in here.
Previously, both Goldman and Prudential teamed with RBH on Teachers Village in Newark, a $160 million project that is creating a mix of schools, apartments and stores from a patchwork of warehouses and parking lots.
Also interesting: creating a farm in a space and neighborhood that was previously used for heavy industrial use doesn’t come without challenges.
One reason that Newark, and especially the Ironbound section, may be so affordable is its legacy of pollution. Crisscrossed by truck routes and flight paths, the Ironbound also was the home of a federal Superfund site where Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant, was manufactured in the mid-20th century; the site has since been cleaned up.
Similarly, over the years, toxins like lead have been discovered on the long block containing AeroFarms’ new farm. In fact, the swimming pool in an athletic center there had to be constructed on an upper floor, over fears that harmful chemicals could seep into the water, said Drew Curtis, a director of the Ironbound Community Corporation, a local nonprofit that has worked to remediate the area.
And because only four trucks will service the farm daily, AeroFarms is expected to have a light environmental footprint: “Every use at that site would have probably added truck traffic, but this will be far less than other uses,” Mr. Curtis said.
Encouraging to see the Ironbound Community Corporation, a long respected advocate for the neighborhood, come out in favor of this plan.