ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Roy Solomon sees green in a sea of pavement.
He pictures fruits and flowers thriving amid the cacophony of freeway traffic, and a small – and somewhat unconventional – retail center growing up with them.
Solomon, an Albuquerque businessman and veteran restaurateur, plans to develop a farm-centric retail project on a vacant 1 1/2-acre plot just north of the Carlisle off-ramp from westbound Interstate 40.
He’s calling the development Green Jeans Farmery and billing it “an indoor/outdoor community courtyard surrounded by local businesses in a relaxed and social environment.”
Key to the concept is a hydroponic farm – “We can create an urban, city-type of farm where you can grow all of your produce right in a controlled environment,” he said – but that’s just one component of the “container community” Solomon aims to create.
As planned, Green Jeans would include six structures, all of them made from old shipping containers. He envisions a restaurant, tap room, coffee shop, chocolate and wine bar, farmer’s market and more – all locally owned – and said he’s already in talks with a few potential tenants.
The buildings would total just under 7,000 square feet.
“I think I have something that is going to be real cool there,” said Solomon, who is preparing to file for a city building permit after the project cleared the city’s Environmental Planning Commission.
Buildings fashioned from old shipping containers have cropped up all over the country, both for residential and commercial uses. Solomon cited Container Park, a shopping/dining/entertainment center that opened last year in Las Vegas, Nev., and the Proxy project in San Francisco, which uses shipping containers to host a changing array of vendors.
Solomon said such projects give new life to crates that otherwise just pile up after use. Plus, he said, they make for interesting building material.
“You can cut your windows and doors and skylights wherever you want, combine them (by) cutting out center walls to get space you want,” he said, noting that many of Green Jeans’ various enterprises will be built from multiple crates. “Because they’re so structural, so solid, you can stack one on top of the other. That makes it kind of fun.”
Kym Dicome, planning manager for the city, said this is the first container project – residential or commercial – to come through the planning office. So far, it has been well received, earning unanimous approval from the EPC.
“(The) EPC did indicate it was innovative and they appreciate that,” Dicome said.
The container construction may give the project a certain cachet, but Solomon called the farming element the driving force for the whole thing.
The former owner of the 505 Southwestern salsa company and several Albuquerque restaurants, Solomon said he recently completed training as a health and nutrition coach and increasingly has become interested in locally grown food.
He said he may run the on-site hydroponic farm himself and hopes it also may serve as an educational tool for others.
“Locally grown food is really a wave of the future, in my opinion,” he said.