Farm sprouts at stalled Murray Hill science center construction site

August 03, 2011 11:05AM

The Riverpark Farm at the stalled Alexandria Center construction site

More proof that stalled construction sites aren’t inherently relegated to become boarded up eyesores while developers await financing comes from the farm sprouting at the stalled Alexandria Center for Life Sciences.

While developer Alexandria Real Estate Equities secures financing for the second phase of a three-tower, 1.1 million-square-foot science complex at 430 East 29th Street near First Avenue, partners from the nearby Riverpark restaurant have nurtured a 15,000-square-foot farm that grows 100 different types of vegetables, herbs and flowers.

Riverpark chef Sisha Ortuzar, who also created the concept for popular sandwich chain ‘wichcraft, initiated the farm to supply produce for the farm-to-table concept restaurant. When construction resumes for the science center the farm will relocate to another part of the four-acre Alexandria complex. The farm is portable as it is composed of thousands of soil-filled milk-crates on a concrete foundation. It “is just another way to think about a farmer’s field,” said Zach Pickens, an urban farmer working at Riverpark farm. “Add some sun, water and patience and a great harvest will follow.”

The first phase of the Alexandria Center for Life Sciences was unveiled this past December with the help of city and state funding, and was hailed as a key part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s vision for the city to become a hub of technological innovation. The first phase remains under construction, while the second phase is “temporary idle,” according to Scarlet Shore, executive director of coprorate strategy at Alexandria. “We are proud to be a part of such an exciting project and encourage other developers to learn from our experience and consider additional, similar projects,” she said.

The news comes on the heels of the announcement of a similar, albeit not quite so ambitious project on the Lower East Side, where a stalled lot is being converted into a “timeshare backyard.” — Adam Fusfeld