WESTFIELD, NJ — Plans for an indoor hydroponic farm, banquet hall and nonprofit educational space got the Westfield Planning Board’s approval Monday.
Owners Greg Redington and Michele Modestino walked the planning board through their plans for the indoor vertical farm and learning center — REDI-farms — to be located at 610 North Ave. East in the century old building once occupied by Handler Manufacturing.
“We are going to manufacture food through hydroponic vertical farming,” said Redington, who with this wife Michele also is the principal of Westfield-based REDCOM Design & Construction. “That’s going to provide fresh food for all of Westfield and Union County 12 months a year.”
The establishment, he said, will also have a restaurant, event space, teaching kitchen and a retail store.
“Adaptive reuse and sustainability are very important to Michele and I,” Redington said. “That’s why we’re maintaining this building, and we’re going to bring it back to its grandeur and probably past its grandeur.”
The site, he said, is slated to include 42 parking spaces — 33 on the west side of the building and nine spaces on the east side of the building. The plans call for two of the parking spaces near a “green wall” at the front of the building to be designated for electric vehicles.
Modestino said that they plan to clad a portion of the building facing North Avenue with a metal structure on which plants will grow, comprising the green wall.
“Turning the corner to North Avenue, we plan to clad a portion of the building with a metal lattice which will serve as a structure for growing plants, hoping to draw attention to main entrance and hinting at what is housed within,” she said.
Councilman Mike Dardia, who sits on the planning board, asked for a bike rack with a more modern design.
“I’m thinking of something with a loop,” Dardia said. “It doesn’t take up as much space. It might be more in keeping with the industrial design that you’re going for.”
Redington and Modestino agreed to the new design and after hearing from a member of the public, agreed to place an additional bike rack near the retail side of the establishment.
The town council had previously approved a redevelopment plan for the property and the municipality secured approval from Fair Share Housing Center to move six affordable units that had been slated for the North Avenue property to the site of Williams Nursery, where a 162 unit housing development is slated to be built.
The board approved the plans by a unanimous vote.
Mayor Shelley Brindle spoke in support of the plan for North Avenue.
“It’s a project that is a broad community benefit,” Brindle said. “I think it really models and supports the values that we’ve talked about – who we want to be, about sustainability. I’m so happy we’re not having a conversation about tearing something down but instead building something up.”
This story originally appeared here