Trading carbon monoxide fumes for oxygen-producing, edible plants, Whole Foods Corporation, the world’s largest retailer of natural and organic foods, is building its first greenhouse-topped grocery store in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Scheduled to open during Summer 2013, what was originally planned in 2006 to be a rooftop parking lot on top of a grocery store has morphed into a 20,000 square foot rooftop greenhouse that will supply the Whole Foods Market below with the absolute freshest food possible.
According to a Whole Foods Market spokesperson, “Much of the controlled environment hydroponic growing system will concentrate on a variety of lettuces and basil with a smaller section dedicated to vine crops – a variety of tomatoes and perhaps cucumbers.”
Whole Foods is the second New York City retail grocery store to have a rooftop greenhouse. Eli Zabar, New York City’s original commercial rooftop farmer began this in the 1990s above his Manhattan store, The Vinegar Factory. Across the East River, nearly 20 years later, micro greens, lettuces, tomatoes and basil that have never been transported in an exhaust-spewing truck or rail car, will be available for sale, year-round, grown above land that was once so polluted that the EPA designated it a Superfund site. Whole Foods Market in Gowanus will emulate Mr. Zabar’s innovative rooftop greenhouse idea, giving eco-conscious Brooklyn’s rapidly growing locavore community something delicious to celebrate.
Although Whole Foods broke ground in formerly industrial Gowanus, Brooklyn on this “Brownfield Cleanup Program” site six years ago, preparation to lay the concrete foundation has just begun this week, after a multi-year struggle for the company to be awarded a zoning variance. Whole Foods agreed to many tweaks in the original design, including reducing the square footage of the grocery store and parking lot by 25% and modifying the original design from including a rooftop parking lot to sporting an attractive, environmentally-sound greenhouse that will grow produce to be sold in the store below.