Gotham Greens Plans To Open New Greenhouse In Colorado
In a budding industry, Aurora has been handpicked as a landing spot for a green giant. Gotham Greens, the Brooklyn-born company at the forefront of the urban farming industry, is coming to town.
By the spring of 2020, Gotham Greens will be growing arugula, basil, bok choy and a variety of other herbs and leafy greens out of a 30,000-square-foot greenhouse nestled behind Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas St. As recently as last week, the site wasn’t much more than a slab of concrete spiked with steel beams, but when it opens it will be a state-of-the-art facility set up taso produce fresh food 365 days per year.
“Where we’re standing will be filled with plant growing beds,” company co-founder and CEO Viraj Puri said while walking the construction site last week. “Our proprietary growing method uses 95% less water and 97% less land than traditional farming.”
Indoor farming isn’t a new idea in the Denver area. Nonprofit fresh produce provider The GrowHaus will celebrate its 10th anniversary next month. It operates a trio of indoor farms in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood. Altius Farms has been harvesting and distributing its own brand of aeroponically grown leafy greens and herbs since late 2018. It’s roughly 7,000-square-foot greenhouse sits on the roof of a restaurant in the S*Park development in Denver’s River North Art District. That project is owned by Westfield Co., the same developer behind Stanley Marketplace that has now brought in Gotham Greens.
What will set Gotham Green’s Denver operation apart is its scale. Its greenhouse is designed to serve the entire state and even some parts of bordering states, Puri said. Whole Foods has already signed on to carry Gotham Greens lettuce mixes, herbal dressings and other goods in all of its Colorado stores, according to the CEO. By growing its products close to consumers, the company also limits the carbon footprint of its business.
“What’s remarkable about this system, is it’s a climate-controlled greenhouse that employs a lot of technology — hydroponic, automation, computer control systems, advanced drip irrigation techniques,” he said. “It will produce a yield equivalent to a 25-acre farm.”
Stanley Marketplace is the western front of an ambitious expansion effort. Founded in 2009, Gotham Greens opened its first greenhouse in Brooklyn until 2011. It expanded to Chicago in 2014 and has grown its presence in New York over the last few years but 2019 has been its busiest year to date.
With new greenhouses in Providence, R.I., and Baltimore expected to open by the end of the year, the company will soon crack the New England and Mid-Atlantic markets. When those facilities are up and running, Puri will oversee a company with more than 500,000 square feet of greenhouse space and 350 employees. That’s before the Aurora facility opens and brings on 30 full-time workers, he said.
Colorado — and the Denver metro area specifically — were a good fit for Gotham Greens because many consumers in the state value sustainably grown, eco-friendly food products, Gotham Greens co-founder and chief financial officer Eric Haley said. Haley should know. He grew up in the south metro area and graduated from Cherry Creek High School in 1999.
Haley had some personal friends at Westfield Co. that made getting the Stanley Marketplace project going that much easier. Like its facilities in other cities, Gotham Greens intentionally chose a visible place in a metro area that was formerly home to heavy industrial activity for its first — but possibly not last — Colorado greenhouse.
“It’s hugely compelling because we want the customer-facing greenhouse so we can help educate the consumers about our products, why they are different and how we grow,” Haley said. “We pack our products the same day and we deliver it the next day.”
While the company plans to open the facility for public tours, there will not be a retail component at the Aurora greenhouse. Puri said one of the vendors inside Stanley Marketplace will be carrying Gotham Greens products as soon as they are ready to sell.
Aurora Mayor Bob LeGare especially likes that part of Gotham Green’s plans for his city. He characterized the area around Stanley Marketplace as a food desert that could benefit from more fresh produce being made available on store shelves.
“I think that would be a real plus to folks that live in the northwest corner of Aurora,” he said.