550 Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn now features a 1,600-square-foot rooftop farm for residents and a local restaurateur to grow fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs.
It’s on the eighth floor terrace of the 18-story brick and concrete building, which opened in late 2016. Construction of the farm began in April.
Condo owners can sign up for plots, measuring 7 feet by 10 feet each, to grow their own produce, Ashley Cotton, EVP of External Affairs at Forest City Partners, tells Business Insider. The largest farm plot is about 39 feet by 21 feet and is divided by plank walkways.
Ian Rothman, a farmer and co-owner of the farm-to-table restaurant Olmsted, has also reserved a large section of the farm. Rothman will grow hot peppers for the restaurant’s homemade aji dulce sauce there, among other items. Residents can sign up for one-on-one gardening workshops with Olmsted’s staff.
In a joint venture, Greenland USA and Forest City Ratner Partners are developing the building. Approximately 60 per cent of the condos, which range from US$890,000 to US$6.8 million, are sold, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The building includes over 10,000 square feet of other shared amenities, including a library, lounge, dining room, catering kitchen, children’s playroom, and fitness center. It’s part of the US$6 billion, 22-acre Pacific Park development, which will include 14 residential buildings with 6,430 apartments when complete in 2025.
The idea for the rooftop farm came from the building’s architects at NYC-based firm Cookfox. When the team began designing 550 Vanderbilt, they wanted to add something that would help residents connect with nature and each other.
“We wanted to incorporate green space in a larger way as a defining feature of the building,” Darin Reynolds, Partner at Cookfox, tells BI.
Cotton expects the rooftop farmers to grow all types of produce, from tomatoes to carrots to herbs. Compared to growing on the ground, there’s more sunlight when you’re tending to crops on a roof, Rothman tells BI.
“The more sun, the more vegetables you are going to get,” he says.
The building’s garden reflects the larger farm-to-table movement, in which growers supply directly to restaurants or consumers, and the culinary trends of plant-centric, gluten-free diets. In New York, more and more urban farms are popping up in parking lots, rooftops, and in warehouses.
Personal farm rooftops are a slowly growing trend for condos in New York City (especially luxury condos). Two high-priced Manhattan apartment buildings, in Chelsea and NoMad, also feature rooftop gardens (the latter of which was designed by Piet Oudolf, a landscape architect known for his work on the High Line). Another affordable housing development in Queens, called Hunters Point South Commons, has a 660-square-foot garden and apiary.
“New Yorkers are great at maximizing usability of every inch of space, and rooftop farming becomes an extension of that mindset,” says Rebecca Lotka, designer at Terrain NYC, the company that led the terrace’s landscape design.
Unlike most urban farms, the majority of the produce will be eaten by the condo’s residents — who will also be responsible for maintaining the plots.
Outdoor space is a hot commodity, so residents will pay a premium for it.
“In New York City especially, you don’t find opportunities to garden and commune more closely with nature very easily,” Cotton says. “The plots at 550 Vanderbilt are the closest thing most New Yorkers have to gardening in their own backyard.”
Since the building own the farms, there’s less of a chance that it will end up abandoned like a number of community gardens in NYC. Still, if you can afford a condo in the building, it’s certainly easier to just buy organic kale and cauliflower at Whole Foods.