Retrofitting Malls with Food Innovation Hubs.
Malls, whether they are failing or vibrant provide an opportunity to establish some of the needed components for a regional food system. Two questions need to first be addressed before looking at this in greater detail: What is a Food Innovation Hub (FIH)? Why would we put a FIH in a mall?
What is a Food Innovation Hub (FIH)? A FIH is comprised of organizations, businesses and programs that strengthen and support the expansion of local, sustainable food infrastructure. These entities reinforce each other by working closely together towards the larger goal of generating awareness and momentum for a regional food system. Their work encourages increased participation of small-scale entrepreneurs, businesses and the general public to act as positive contributors to this system. Further, they provide a range of training, tools, and infrastructure needed to make the transition meaningful and locally driven. Essentially, a FIH acts as a micro food system. It creates connections between the various and complex components of a food system. It is an example of the synergistic relationships that are needed to advance a regional food system. A more detailed description of the components will be provided further on.
Why would we put a FIH in a mall? The future of malls is in question. Shoppers are being lured away by newer competition, resulting in the closing of malls throughout North America (Dunham-Jones & Williamson, 2008). We are only beginning to see how these large parcels of land are being reimagined and redeveloped. Typically, this has taken shape in the form of mixed-use centers that reflect the principles of new urbanism2 (Greenseth, 2008). This project does not follow this trend entirely, as it does not seek to change the infrastructure of the mall but use it to provide a multi-service center that appeals to a large demographic. Placing FIH’s in malls is not done to compete against other businesses. Instead, their existence relies on the support of the existing fabric and dynamics of the mall. Consequently, the dynamic synergy between uses creates a mutually beneficial relationship. It establishes a unique way of helping to localize the food system, while increasing the overall resiliency and effectiveness of the mall.