Food for Placemaking & Revitalization

Detroit, MI – Asheville, NC – Athens, OH – these are just three cities whose recent revitalization has demonstrated the power of local food to catalyze communities, attract visitors and spur economic development.

Establishing great farmers markets in a downtown district can be an inexpensive way to attract visitors to an area with previously very few draws. Vacant buildings can become thriving public markets, processing facilities or grocery stores. Depressed downtown neighborhoods can become the go-to spot for farm-to-table restaurants and microbreweries.

Recently, we have been working with nonprofits, planning groups, and economic development agencies on exploring local food as a strategy for placemaking and community revitalization. Several of our studies have identified enterprises that could be feasibly located in abandoned spaces that had previously served as vital community resources. We have also conducted broad community assessments that identified strategies to establish a thriving food district that would bring industries, jobs and visitors to a neighborhood.

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New Venture Advisors is a team of business consultants specializing in local food system planning and new enterprise development.

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Food for Placemaking & Revitalization Projects


Chicago Public School Reuse

Chicago, IL

Landmarks Illinois is the state’s leading voice for historic preservation. New Venture Advisors worked with Landmarks Illinois and Chicago Public Schools to identify reuse opportunities for 18 schools that had been closed by the board of education to combat budget deficits. Recognizing Chicago as a well-established and growing hub of entrepreneurial activity in food and beverage, New Venture Advisors explored adaptive reuse cases centered on important assets of these schools – their kitchens, grounds, and multi-use spaces – that could serve as a foundation for food enterprises. Read the report here. (2015)

Bridgeport Downtown Development

Bridgeport, CT

Bridgeport Downtown Special Services District is focused on the development and revitalization of downtown Bridgeport, CT. New Venture Advisors worked with Carmody Consulting on the development of an action plan to revitalize Bridgeport’s downtown district through food enterprise development and to increase access to fresh fruit and vegetables. The plan was based on extensive stakeholder interviews and a community planning session. (2015)

Rural Grocery Store Revitalization

Iowa, Kansas & Michigan

Rural grocery stores are closing at an alarming rate, endangering their role as the cornerstone of a healthy and connected rural community. Through the generous support of the USDA and in collaboration with local academic partners, New Venture Advisors is conducting a feasibility study to evaluate how the development of a food hub within a rural grocery store could enable a rural food hub to be viable despite market limitations, while simultaneously providing a critical new source of revenue for the rural grocery store. A report and feasibility toolkit will be made accessible to rural grocery store owners nationwide. (2016)

With the study by New Venture Advisors, Landmarks Illinois is able to demonstrate that there are underutilized assets in historic schools – kitchens, cafeterias, open spaces – that can be occupied by food-related organizations, businesses and entrepreneurs. Their partnership in reusing these important neighborhood buildings can be of great benefit to a community.

Lisa DiChiera

Director of Advocacy, Landmarks Illinois