An estimated $17 million hydroponic vertical greenhouse in downtown Lancaster could start operating by fall 2020, city officials said.
The vertical greenhouse would be built in a vacant plot in front of the Prince Street Garage, said Corey Fogarty, board president of the Lancaster Urban Farming Initiative, a nonprofit that would lead development of the project.
His goal is to bring larger-scale urban farming to distressed areas of Lancaster and to offer locally grown produce and year-round jobs for residents.
And his nonprofit is one step closer to reaching that goal.
Officials from the Lancaster Parking Authority said they approved plans to lease vacant land next to Prince Street Garage, a move that would permit development plans to proceed for the greenhouse to be constructed on the West Orange Street side of the garage.
“The vertical greenhouse proposal was first introduced to us a few years ago, but it was in a very early stage. We have now heard about a project with its partners and financial backing,” Larry J. Cohen, executive director of the Lancaster Parking Authority, said in a statement.
Details of the lease remain be negotiated, Cohen said, but the parking authority will retain ownership of the land. He noted that the proposed site is a good use of “marginally unusable land.”
The project is based on Vertical Harvest of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Wyoming, the first project of its kind in the U.S.
The Lancaster nonprofit will develop the project in partnership with Vertical Harvest Jackson Hole and local firms.
Fogarty said several areas expressed interest in the concept. Vertical Harvest chose Lancaster and the Lancaster Urban Farming Initiative team for its first expansion location.
The proposal includes a multi-story building, said Fogarty, with a marketplace on the ground floor and areas on the upper levels that could produce 10-20 acres of vegetables.
An artist’s rendering shows exterior glass walls to absorb sunlight. Vegetables would be planted and harvested in vertical growing carousels, and the building could include space for visitors, education rooms and a possible ground-level agricultural history museum, said Fogarty.
When the lease agreement is approved, Fogarty said his team is prepared to begin design and engineering work on the project.
“This project will hopefully further bring national attention to Lancaster,” Fogarty said in a statement, “And show that our city is a leader not only in traditional agriculture, but also in urban agriculture technologies that can help meet the supply and demand of our rapidly changing environment.”