Downtown Market Grand Rapids



Year: 2013

Type of system: Hydroponics, Geoponics

Climate: Humid Continental (warm summer) climate

Growing season: All year round

Area: 0.18 acres

Production: 8.796 tons/year

Crops: Micro-greens, spices, herbs, fruits and vegetables

Scale: Regional


01.1 Introduction

The case study consists in a rooftop greenhouse used for cultivation, education, and special events. The project has given the following
“A new public market and gathering space promoting local food, education, and entrepreneurship.“ (Rudy Bruner Award, 2015)

This design brings together food production, distribution, education and engaging with the community. As the market publicized, it aims to become a new market experience, transform and support the West Michigan agricultural system, a well as revitalize the South Downtown of Grand Rapids (Grand Rapids, 2016). The project is also a state-of-the-art LEED Gold certified facility and it has been recognized at local and national level.

01.2 Context

Taken from the description of the Rudy Bruner Award competition we found that the city of Grand Rapids is located at the center of a rich, diverse agricultural region dominated by small, independently owned farms. Since the foundation of the city, the agriculture and sustainability have long been important to the community. The city became an important food distribution center, and the public markets became an integral part of the local culture. Finally, the Fulton Street Farmers Market was established in 1922, been the oldest and largest continually operating market in Grand Rapids (Rudy Bruner Award, 2015).

As many downtowns in the Midwest United States, it was emptied out during the 1960s and 1970s. Attempting to overall this situation leaders and residents have been working to revitalize a half-dead downtown over the past 30 years (Rudy Bruner Award, 2015).

In that matter, the Market contributes by attracting people from throughout the region and beyond. But also the new concept is a unique offering, and is another venue that brings all kinds of people downtown to enjoy the city (Rudy Bruner Award, 2015).

02. Time and cost02-time-and-cost

03. Year of implementation, location and climate


04. Type of system, scale, description, and dimension

The green systems are conducted in three different types—outdoor green roofs, exterior live walls and green houses with 1,525 square feet growing spaces. Over 5,000 square feet of outdoor terrace space serves as a public gathering spot. 1,400 square feet exterior walls add liveness to the environment. Two independently controlled greenhouses are total 6,000 square feet. The small greenhouse focuses on growing and educational programs, while the larger greenhouse focuses on growing, education and event rentals.


Grand Rapids Downtown Market is composed of three floors. The first floor is a commercial space with a market shed outside for farmers’ market, also with a market and restaurants that sell the food which are grown in the greenhouse. Moreover, the second and third floor sits meeting room, offices, greenhouse and incubator kitchen that are more educational and business. With different mixed uses and well organized circulation inside the Market, commercial, working and educational spaces are well congregated and communicated that refresh the relationship between people, agriculture, work and education.


plan with scale.png


Different interior arrangements of growing beds:

Source: Paul

05. Crops production, growing seasons and amount of food produce


06.1 Food system




*Since indoor raised beds and hydroponic trays are moveable, we make the assumption that indoor area is quiet flexible according to different uses

The foods are planted in hydroponic and geoponic methods. The hydroponic planting is conducted by a water container for growing foods, and with a water tank below to supply the water. The source of water can come from two resources—one is rain water harvesting system from the green rooftop, the other is water container to fulfill the total water demand. By pumping up the water from water tank and spraying, plants can get efficient water irrigation. Then the used water waste can be recycled and purified to reuse.


Besides hydroponics, geoponic method is applied to rooftop greenery, trellis and container planting. In the greenhouse, the container planting, that is conducted in small containers on wheeled table, offers various flexibilities to the layout and organization of the space inside the greenhouse. For instance, when growing beds are aligned along walls, assembly events can be held in such a big open space; during growing seasons, more growing beds can be added into the greenhouse and rotated according to growing demands. With geoponic method, trellis planting serves a beautiful and fresh decoration to multiply the visual experience of the walls.

06.2 Hydroponics system diagrams



source: Yidan

06.3 Geoponics system diagrams


07. Other benefits

The Market and growing food facilities have the following extra advantages:
– It diversifies the offer of local produce food – “[The Market is a] platform that promotes the rich agricultural community of Western Michigan” (Rudy Bruner Award, 2015).
– It helps to convert a regular market into a “full shopping experience” (Grand Rapids, 2016).
– It changes the alimentation habits of the community – “offers a variety of fresh and healthy food options in a neighborhood once considered a food desert” (Rudy Bruner Award, 2015).
– For low-income residents, it provides with food using food stamps and gives them educational scholarship programs focusing on health and agriculture (Rudy Bruner Award, 2015).
– It attracts media and public attention because the building is consider signature design elements that make it visible and give the sensation of open to the public (Rudy Bruner Award, 2015).
– The event inside the greenhouses can bring profit to the market – “seeking to leverage its popularity [and venues] to generate revenue and offset operating costs” (Rudy Bruner Award, 2015).




After studying the project and analyzing it, from our own perspective, we believe there are clear points of why this building is remarkable and unique:

– The connections between the restaurants and the market with the food production.
– The open access and links between the different facilities in the building, including the greenhouses and the live walls.
– The kitchen educational programs and the farmer markets are key elements that can contribute enhancing the food production systems concepts.
– The greenhouses can be modified to a multi-purpose place that transforms the conventional idea of a food system space.

08.1 Stakeholders

There are direct stakeholders, such as:
– Grand Action, a not-for-profit organization that has revitalized downtown Grand Rapids (joint public/private).
– Private donors.
– Foundations (joint public/private).
– City of Grand Rapids (public).
– Environmental Protection Agency of Michigan (public).
– State of Michigan (public).

There are indirect stakeholders, such as:
– Local public agencies for the improvement of the infrastructure surroundings the market and the public transportation.
– Universities and Schools for educational programs.

Users and visitors of the facility are also stakeholders; these are consumers and renters of the stalls in the market which by purchasing food and goods and paying their share of the space, respectively, makes the facility economically self-sustainable in the long term. Under this principle, the more attractive and active the market remains, the more profit the facility will have to keep improving the food production and maintenance.

Each stakeholder has a significant contribution to the general project, without them it could be difficult to generate a diverse complex. Nonetheless, for the food production site, the stakeholders remains indirect in the way all contribute to the effort, but they are not involve in the production and maintenance of the plants. In that way, the Grand Action organization, who manage the project, will be the direct stakeholder which makes possible the generation of food.

08.2 Policies

For the reading of the bibliography available for the project,  the condition of building the new market for the city of Grand Rapids brings a lot of expectations and aspirations from organizations and public institutions. In order to conceive and construct the Grand Rapids Market, the Grand Action organization needed to partner with several public institutions. These organizations are; the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) which acquired the land where the market is located, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for grant funding and environmental cleanup, and the City of Grand Rapids which allows the projected to be implemented by establishing special condition for the zone and tax breaks incentives. Adding that many of the innovative spaces, including the greenhouse on the roof, was made with the support of the city. The  City government also seek for grants at state and federal level and fundraising with the involvement of the private sector and the society in general.

For the operation of the market, there are also policies that have been implemented. These policies affected positively the food systems in the market:
– Gardening classes and workshops for all ages and backgrounds.
– Classes and workshops for all ages and backgrounds, to teach food production, preservation, and fermentation.
– Learning and understanding of local foods by providing tours, highlighting local farmers and chefs, and LEED certification elements, and by enhancing recipes to educate on the benefits of using locally produced food.
– Food education and production programs the incubator kitchen focusing on food, nutrition, and sustainability, and provide entrepreneurial education to support development of small local businesses.

09. Possible implications

Some possible implication that we found necessary to address are:

– The food production space is shared with an area for different events, many of them will be parties and activities that may compromise the integrity of plants and system elements. A strict policy of care and protection of the elements must be established, and in a case of any damage, it should be recovered immediately.
– Because the project depends on the success of the restaurants and stalls in the market, that consume the production of the food system. There must be a constant interaction between the involving parts so that there is no shortage of products or a case that the food is not used and is spoiled.

10. Bibliography

Group members Yidan Gong and Paul Moscoso







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