Now, in a twist on that theme, a real estate investor turned agricultural businessman plans to transform a 135,000-square-foot building that housed a Target into a working farm, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The building in the River Oaks mall in suburban Calumet City had been empty for years until Jake Counne inked a lease to open Wilder Fields, according to the report. Calumet City officials acquired the property and will lease the space to Counne for a year. He will embark on a multi-year redevelopment, and eventually intends to buy the property. Counne received funding from unnamed investors for the first phase of redevelopment. The company will grow kale and other greens in the building, the Tribune reported. The space will include a retail store to sell the produce.
It is part of Counne’s business plan to transform vacant retail properties into indoor farms, in states like California and Arizona. Wilder Fields replaces the company’s former name, Backyard Fresh Farms.
As the coronavirus crisis seems to have hastened the retail apocalypse for brick-and-mortar businesses, Counne said his vertical farms are the wave of the future. “There is a huge amount of vacant anchor retail space,” he told the Tribune. [Tribune] — Alexi Friedman