For decades, the Armory at 815 Chicago Street was an operating military facility used for training soldiers, storing guns and equipment, and hosting community dances. It was also home to the famous 32nd Division, later honored with the name the “Red Arrow” Division.
In the early 1960’s, operations moved elsewhere, and the building sat vacant, beginning a slow decline lasting 50 years. In April, 2002, the blighted site was acquired along with nearby commercial buildings at Chicago and Jackson Streets for redevelopment. NeighborWorks Green Bay moved into one of those buildings and another, the old Allouez Mineral Spring Company, was adapted for housing. The Armory’s 14-18 inch concrete floors and roof stymied efforts to rework the building into residential condominiums. Over the next decade, a variety of unsuccessful development plans would be proposed; it seemed the Armory might never come back to life.
Three years ago, the right team of volunteers got together and hatched “The Farmory” – they wanted to transform the historic armory building into an indoor, year-round farm. The seeds of our project were planted in part by the work of Will Allen, the Executive Director of Milwaukee’s Growing Power; a non-profit based in education, outreach, and food production for over twenty years. Allen has since become a national leader in the urban agriculture movement. The Farmory is also the brainchild of James Pandl, who refined the operation of the initial growing system that The Farmory is using right now, and who will continue to serve as the lead farmer. Pandl has long been involved in the Wisconsin food industry, most notably for his innovative zero-waste restaurants. Furthermore, as part of graduate work at UW-Green Bay, Pandl researched the viability of urban agriculture in the Green Bay area.
This team of volunteers are board members of the Urban Partnership Community Development Corporation; a non-profit that has a history of collaborating with NeighborWorks Green Bay on community development projects. The Farmory will be the first urban farm of its kind in Northeast Wisconsin.
Fall 2015– Regular Urban Partnership Community Development Corporation meetings begin to finalize the Farmory details.
February 2016– Public launch at the Farmory Open House.
- Test grow system became operational.
- 400+ people came through our doors in 2 hours through only the use of social media, and a single day of local news interviews to spread the word.
March 2016– Volunteer committees staffed with 62 active volunteers.
July 2016– Fund development/fundraising kick-off.
- 3 million dollars to raise!
August 2017– Roof renovations began.
October 2017 – Roof renovations are complete.