A Conversation on the Warehouse District – Agripolis

As part of a dialogue with the Toledo Design Collective, the Collaborative, Midstory coordinated with architect TJ Marston’s design studio, “Revival in the Glass City” this past spring semester 2019. Three teams were selected out of the studio cohort to tell their story and design perspective on revisioning the Warehouse District in Toledo, Ohio. Pursuing their master’s degrees at the Florida International University’s the Landscape Architecture + Environment and Urban Design department, these students offer three distinct and unique takes on Toledo’s legacy, history, and issues at hand and grapple with the urban challenges and specificities of our postindustrial city.

Upon arriving in Toledo, Ohio, the most prevalent thing was snow. Our class arrived during a polar vortex which provided the opportunity to learn about different types of seasonality. We took note of both the historic buildings and the vacant ones. We admired the Maumee River along with its plant species but realized it was causing pollution in Lake Erie. We took the positive and negative aspects from the Warehouse District to transform it into an agricultural hub where the identity of the Warehouse district remains while allowing it to prosper with new types of innovating and ecologically friendly growth.

The Toledo “Warehouse District” is an urban neighborhood that covers about thirty blocks of homes, businesses and restaurants. It is built upon a rich and powerful history which to this day continues to shape its identity. It is located directly south of downtown Toledo, on the west bank of the Maumee River and at the mouth of Swan Creek. Over recent years, the area has received much attention due to algae blooms developed in Lake Erie as a result of agricultural runoff from the region’s surrounding farmland. Swan Creek and Maumee River carry much of the polluted water which then feeds into Lake Erie. In 2014 one of the worst algae blooms in the history of Toledo caused the city’s drinking water supply to shut down for days. 

The proposal for “Agripolis”, aims to raise awareness as well as educate communities and their farmers on sustainable farming practices and alternatives for a more environmentally friendly future. “Agripolis” envisions the warehouse district as an urban farming prototype breaking away from the negative stereotype associated with current farming practices. The concept of “Live, Work, Play” emphasizes how agriculture, specifically urban agriculture, can be adapted in cities to provide jobs, recreation and improve overall quality of life. The “live” component is emphasized through the creation of green and art alleys as well as pocket parks, becoming an integral part of user’s everyday lives. Initiatives such as healthy cooking and gardening classes will also educate people on how sustainable farming can be put to use on a daily basis. In addition to simply ameliorating the user experience throughout the site, the proposal envisions urban farming as an opportunity for job creation both within the district and in neighboring communities. The “Agricultural Hub” located on the West portion of the site includes research centers as well as a variety of different experimental plots including farming techniques such as hydroponics and aquaponics and vertical farming. A “ribbon”, essentially a continuous path programmed all along its span is utilized for play/recreation throughout the district.

In an effort to positively impact neighboring communities around the district, several connections have been made with nearby community centers. The idea is to reach out to the population living in those communities to generate working and recreation opportunities by repurposing vacant lots into working farms, community gardens, playgrounds and so on. A new and improved transportation system links the district to these plots of land as well as the communities. Four major areas have been selected based off of livability as well as the presence of community centers interested in offering programs to help its residents succeed. By establishing a connection with residents on the perimeter of the district the project aims to give back to the community by guaranteeing live work and play to everyone.

“Agripolis” is inspired by a current ongoing plan to ameliorate the Warehouse District put forth by local planners and designers. The proposal takes a more landscape design based approach rather than focusing primarily on streetscapes and the repurposing of buildings. Should the design solution be implemented to complement existing proposals, in addition to addressing issues at a local scale, it would serve as an example for other communities facing challenges such as algae blooms. 

The Team

Juliana Musmanni

Juliana is a current graduate student at Florida International University attaining a master’s degree in Landscape Architecture. 

She received an Associate of Arts Degree in Architecture from Miami Dade College while completing 300+ hours of community service for various organizations. 

She is also a current 2019-2020 Representative for Future Landscape Architects of America (FLAA) and past secretary for the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) at FIU.

Rutusha Nagaraj

Rutusha is a graduate assistant at the office of Academic Space Management (FIU), is an architect and an artist from Bangalore, India. 

She was awarded with gold medal by the state of Karnataka, India for achieving the highest academic performance in B.Arch in 2017. Her thesis “Verti-Farms” has received awards and gained notable recognition, it was also published by the Times of India newspaper. 

With practical experience in the field of architecture her interest inclined more towards nature and design with time. Furthermore, Rutusha has gained recognition in art as well. Her artworks are inspired from nature and culture that have been exhibited internationally. 

She is currently pursuing her master’s in landscape architecture at Florida International University. Her aim is to explore vertical farming through her career in landscape. 

Selene Basile

Selene Basile is a Landscape Architecture+ Urban &Environmental Masters candidate at Florida International University. As an Italian native she developed her passion for Landscape Architecture after living in Costa Rica for multiple years. She was recently awarded a scholarship to participate in a week long workshop held in Costa Rica on sustainable construction out of bamboo. After working on the proposed Toledo master plan, Selene is considering further pursuing urban design in her future career. 


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