Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Five-Story Farming Complex Proposed For South Side

Led by organization with connections to urban farming pioneer Will Allen.

By - Jan 26th, 2023 12:01 pm
Site plan for Beyond Organic at 716 W. Windlake Ave. Plan submitted to DCD, drawn Korb + Associates Architects.

Site plan for Beyond Organic at 716 W. Windlake Ave. Plan submitted to DCD, drawn Korb + Associates Architects.

Beyond Organic, a nonprofit organization focused on healthy food education, has big plans for a parking lot just south of W. Mitchell St. on Milwaukee’s South Side.

The organization is proposing to develop a five-story, 85,000-square-foot facility that, according to a Department of City Development report, would house a store, restaurant, event space, classroom, aquaponics operation and vegetable growing operation. A site plan includes a rooftop farm and solar panels.

A request to grant the organization an exclusive right to negotiate for the purchase of the city-owned site at 716 W. Windlake Ave. is pending before the Common Council. Currently used as a parking lot, the site is listed as covering 0.71 acres between S. 7th St. and S. 8th St.

The Wauwatosa-based 501(c)(3) organization is led by Laura Michele.

“Our mission brings together children and community through hands on agriculture. Environmental justice, diversity and inclusion. Respect & Compassion in Action, guides our work and relationships. We ignite student engagement while serving communities of evolving hearts and minds to produce sustainable and certified organic plants, food and wellness. Our commitment is solidly demonstrated in every aspect of our organization and its practices. Compassion to fellow human beings, mother earth, community, our employees and our service to every individual,” says the organization’s mission statement on nonprofit reporting website Guidestar. Its website promotes a program operated in partnership with UW-Parkside.

Michele was a business partner with urban agriculture pioneer Will Allen on his entity, Will Allen’s Beyond Organic. That entity, according to state financial records, was dissolved in 2021. Michele’s organization was incorporated in 2020.

Allen launched Growing Power at 5500 W. Silver Spring Dr. in the 1990s and grew it into an internationally-recognized urban farming organization, but the organization shuttered in 2017 amidst financial difficulties. Allen and his partners were pioneers in developing aquaponics, where fish support the growth of hydroponically grown (water-based) plants. Growing Power was also a pioneer in training urban youth for careers in sustainable agriculture.

Growing Power announced plans to develop its own five-story, vertical farm on the Silver Spring Drive site in 2010. Those plans never publicly progressed after being announced.

Allen’s Beyond Organic entity was created following Growing Power’s demise. It worked with hemp and sold CBD oil.

Michele did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

Beyond Organic is working with Korb + Associates Architects on the proposal according to a document submitted to the city.

The organization would have the exclusive right to negotiate for the purchase of the property through Nov. 30 with a possible three-month extension. The Common Council would need to approve any future land sales and might need to approve a zoning change for the property.

The Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee could first review the proposal on Jan. 31. The proposed site is located in Common Council President Jose G. Perez‘s district.

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Related Legislation: File 221536

2 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Five-Story Farming Complex Proposed For South Side”

  1. says:

    What a great idea! More urban farms, please!

  2. Polaris says:

    I love this, and have wondered if there is space in a new Mitchell Park for urban/permaculture farming, in its own right and as both an attraction and a learning opportunity for people of all ages…

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