Patch 2

In the last post I reviewed the Home Gr/own Milwaukee proposal for Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge and launched the plan for Patchopolis’ Patch 2; converting foreclosed properties into a chain of grow houses. While foreclosers decreased nationally 3% in 2012, there are still a number of properties in cities like Milwaukee available for redevelopment (Les Christie, CNN Money). The map of Milwaukee below shows an area of the city surrounding the downtown area and how a decentralized food system could use a number of the foreclosed properties to serve a central location.


A system of decentralized urban food production that relies on available land is not a new concept in American society. During World War II communities were encouraged to start Victory Gardens to help support the war effort. Americans were rationing everything from rubber to food, so gardens were planted in available parks, school lots, and yards as a team effort among community members “to produce enough fresh vegetables through the summer for the immediate family and neighbors” (Smithsonian National Museum of American History). During the war more than 20 million victory gardens were planted, producing 9-10 million tons of fresh fruits and vegetables (Wessels Living History Farm). Today most Victory Gardens are gone, though a few sites still remain or have been revived as community gardens.

Victory Garden posters from WWII

In the last decade the desire to farm urban space has been reignited. Previously I have reviewed companies using roof tops in New York and old factories in Chicago who believe they can be profitable businesses. Another large, more traditional format of farm has been planned for Detroit by the Hantz Group. Their plan uses abandoned lots, which have been used by squaters as drug houses or have been otherwise linked to criminal activity (Hantz Woodlands). The plan with Hantz Farm is to clear a large area of land, removing the existing properties to shrink the city and start a large farm in its place.

Similar to Hantz Farms, Patch 2 utilizes foreclosed sites by purchasing land and properties from the city, but rather than clear the land uses existing homes to create green houses. Through stripping the siding, OSB, insulation, and interior finishes on the south side we are left with just the 2″x4″ framing and the roof on that part of the building. We then re-enclose the structure with glazing and use the structure to install growing systems. Be it building out trays or using a vertical window system, the following images show some early renderings of the concept.




The northern side of the building remains whole, and can either be used for cleaning and canning produce or as small apartments. Also, because these homes are within active neighborhoods, night shades can be added to improve glazing insulation value, better retaining heat over night while also blocking light so in winter it doesn’t disrupt neighbors when lights are needed due to shorter hours with sunlight. With a string of these houses scattered around town, foreclosed sites can be utilized that will cost less to buy from the city and can prevent crime increase in residential neighborhoods hit hardest by foreclosures.

In the next post I plan to review a number of DIY projects for urban apartment dwellers including home brewing, gardening, and canning.