GREEN MACHINE: New fresh produce greenhouse sprouts behind Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace

1970
Gotham Green greenhouse in Aurora as seen from a drone. PHOTO BY PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

AURORA | North Aurora got a little greener last week thanks to a hulking new building behind Stanley Marketplace.

Gotham Greens, a Brooklyn, New York-based purveyor of high-tech greenhouses that sells fresh produce to a growing swath of restaurateurs and grocers, opened its newest facility in a plot behind 2501 Dallas St. in Aurora May 20, according to a news release. The 30,000-square-foot agricultural hub is expected to cultivate some 2 million heads of various leafy greens each year.

Situated beside a long-abandoned aircraft runway, the building marks the fast-growing company’s eighth such greenhouse in the country. Founded about a decade ago, the firm now operates multiple greenhouses in New York City as well as others in Chicago, Illinois Baltimore, Maryland and Providence, Rhode Island, netting more than 35 million heads of lettuce each year.

All of Gotham Greens’ grow houses use about 95% less water and 97% less land than traditional farming.

The new Aurora facility cost approximately $4 million to design and construct, according to Gotham Greens co-founder and CEO Viraj Puri. The city of Aurora provided the company $48,500 to help cover the costs of environmental remediation as the new facility was built on a former industrial site, according to a city spokesperson.

Residents of the metroplex and beyond can soon expect to see the Aurora-grown greens on the shelves of several local supermarkets, including Whole Foods, Safeway and Alfalfa’s.

Gotham’s produce is not available to walk-in retail customers at the Aurora greenhouse, Puri confirmed.

He said the new Aurora location is poised to infill an increasing number of broken links in the food chain spurred by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Given the current pressures on our country’s food system, one thing is clear: the importance of strengthening our national food supply through decentralized, regional supply chains,” Puri said in a statement.

The company is expected to hire a total of 30 workers in the coming weeks. That comes as the global pandemic continues to decimate the regional economy, with nearly 500,000 unemployment claims filed in Colorado in the past three months, according to statistics compiled by the state department of Labor and Employment.

The company is currently seeking production assistants. Anyone interested in applying is encouraged to visit gothamgreens.com/careers and email [email protected]

Crystal Murillo, city councilperson for the ward that encompasses Gotham’s new site, said she is eager to welcome a new producer in an area that for years was seen as a food desert, or an area with a dearth of access to fresh food.

“I’m really excited that we’re going to have more locally grown produce available in a food desert area,” said Murillo, who met with Gotham representatives in recent months. “I’m hoping it’s a really positive collaboration with the community, and I’m excited for them to be in Aurora.”