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farming  nature, Framing  future

Remediating Land and Engaging Community through New Farming Industry


Philadelphia is in the stage of seeking solutions for the side effects of industrial developments that have been flourishing for decades. For the past few years, the city has been reshaped by many urban agencies to recover postindustrial sites as a cultural hub both for human and ecology. Among them, the former 1,300 acres of refinery site along the Schuylkill River is a precious opportunity to demonstrate the urban life of the next generation in Philadelphia.

We identify three major issues: first, the tension between industry and health; second, pollution of the Schuylkill River; and lastly, food insecurity of the future generation. 

According to Philly Thrive, which led the “Right to Breathe Campaign”, participants living near the refinery experience much higher rates of asthma compared to the country. This health and environmental issue is conflicting with the workers who lost high paying jobs from the refinery. Second, according to reporting from WHYY, a worker at the PES refinery reported that he often witnessed untreated oil and wastewater leaking to the river. Last, research from PolicyLab has found that the neighborhoods near the refinery sites are highly vulnerable to food insecurity.


We also found several of Philadelphia’s strengths, such as its leading position in the biotech industry, operating logistics, and farming industries next to the site. We aimed to build on these strengths in our project, in order to provide a more feasible and novel proposal. This vision includes: a hub of the innovative industries with more than 12,000 new jobs, a healthier neighborhood with IndeFARM system, an accessible new urban center with mixed-use development, and a wetland and waterfront park dealing with pollution and future climate change. 

We came up with four strategies for the process, varying from economic to ecological aspects. First, the site will be integrated into a large food industry network including biotech research, production and distribution. Next, we are enhancing the connectivity with South and Southwest Philadelphia and surrounding neighborhoods with road network development. Next we are proposing three different types of green systems: recreational, ecological, and productive landscapes. Finally, for transit development, we are building a new bus rapid transit (BRT) system around the South Philadelphia area and the third metro system of the city, by reusing the CSX rail track on South 25th Street. 
































With the advancement of biotechnology, we are proposing a community-based food sharing system called “IndeFARM.” Biotechnology has been improving and has made the vertical farm system become more efficient and affordable. This downsized version of the vertical farm is a concept inspired by the bicycle sharing system that can be seen in major cities. This is an instrument to solve the issue of food insecurity and enhance community engagement. The system could be supported by the government and operated by community organizations or co-ops, hiring local residents to manage kiosks and replace products. 

IndeFARM improves local consumers’ accessibility to fresh products, leads community economy and stewardship, and provides a new streetscape to the neighborhood. 

































We aimed to set the project into three phases: in the first ten years, it is all about preparing for future changes on site in advance. Besides taking actions in cleaning up the site as the short term goal, we think it is also important to improve surrounding neighborhoods, such as Grays Ferry and Forgotten Bottom at the north, in terms of physical and social infrastructures. Phase one is also the period to invest more in biotech industries to lay a good foundation for future challenges.

In the second phase, the site will become more accessible and starting to integrate with existing neighborhoods. For example, we proposed a road extension on Snyder Avenue, bringing the vibe of commercial activities into the site, which means I-76 would need to be redeveloped underground. Meanwhile, 400 acres of wetland and waterfront park would complete the green corridor along the rivers, becoming a part of the city’s ecological network. The new green system will solve the lack of accessibility and recreation opportunity to the waterfront and mitigate flooding risk.

Lastly in phase 3, which we called Heal Up, using the strengths of bio-technologies and logistic industry, the site will become a new food industrial hub that not only boosts the city’s economy, but also solve the issue of food insecurity. Arterial streets with major transit developments will be developed to enhance the accessibility to the commercial corridors and the community. More mixed-use, mixed income developments will also be stimulated in this phase to establish a livable urban center.

By Shao-an Chiu, Junwon Kim, Heejung Shin,  and Nuosha Wang


Shao-an Chiu is a second-year Master of City Planning student, concentrating in Urban Design. He received his Bachelor degree of Architecture in Taiwan. He participated in transit-oriented development projects during his time working in an architectural firm for two years, which led him to study urban design in Penn. He wants to explore more about the intersection of urban planning, urban design and architecture, seeking different possibilities in urban environments. He is currently taking the certificate of real estate design and development.

Junwon Kim  is a second-year Master of City Planning student, concentrating in Urban Design. Previously, he worked as an architectural designer for two years in Seoul, Korea. Currently, he is interested in finding a common ground where to synthesize landscape architecture and urban planning.

Heejung Shin is a second-year Master of Landscape Architecture student. She worked at an architectural studio after receiving a Bachelor or Architecture in Seoul, Korea. Her design practice seeks the power of landscape architecture as a medium of connecting artificials with nature. Her recent research focuses on the integration work across fields of landscape, architecture, urban design and even ecology and life science. 

Nuosha Wang is a second-year Master of Landscape Architecture student. She also received her Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture in Shanghai, China. She is interested in how landscapes can get more engaged in present urban development, and seeks the possibility to make real changes in people’s living environment.

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