University of Arkansas Community Design Center - Whitmore Community Food Hub Complex: Building Community Around Food
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Whitmore Community Food Hub Complex: Building Community Around Food

University of Arkansas Community Design Center

Urban Planning  /  Future
University of Arkansas Community Design Center
More than 93 percent of Hawai‛i’s food is imported. Alarming, since Hawai‛i is the remotest inhabited land mass on Earth; astonishing, since Hawai‛i is the only state in the US covering all seven of Earth’s terrestrial biomes—coastal strand, dry woodlands, tropical rainforest, mesic forests, deserts, subalpine grassland, and alpine desert. Hawai‛i’s landscape once fed a nation. Hawaiian grocers have a five-day supply of food sourced from global supply chains, meaning they are fifteen meals away from anarchy. The proposal recalls the need to “think like an island” in building statewide resilience.

The proposal details design for a Food Hub complex to serve O‛ahu farmers and communities while advancing a template for community-based farming on Hawai`i’s five main islands. Community-based food hubs are emerging nationwide as anchors in aggregating, processing, and distributing product from local growers to wholesale consumers. Not a typical farmer’s market, food hubs incubate socio-economic resilience through creation of value-added food supply chains and a skilled workforce where neither existed. The Food Hub reconstitutes a “missing middle” urban agricultural infrastructure abandoned due to the dominance of industrial farming.

Besides providing processing and distribution support for an underserved agricultural community, the Whitmore complex serves additional community needs in agricultural workforce housing, retail, local business incubation, and cultural tourism. The challenge is to provide a great public place for Wahiawa residents, and North Shore tourists alike, despite that 80 percent of the complex is devoted to logistical functions. Keeping in mind that the Food Hub is essentially a large post-harvest facility, four principles guide the planning of the 34-acre complex.

Logistics: provide a Food Hub that meets the requirements of the new US Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). FSMA regulations maximize food safety from farm to table. The facility’s investment-grade construction is smooth with minimal articulation that prevents water and pest intrusions, while resisting corrosion and extreme weather. The hub’s tilt wall concrete construction system—an in situ process—provides flexibility, affordability, and minimal joinery for high performance protection of food products.

Placemaking: integrate logistical spaces of the Food Hub with surrounding neighborhoods through serial public spaces that sponsor multiple uses. Urban design adopts a campus planning approach animated by public landscapes including the upgrade of Whitmore Avenue from a highway to a mixed-use multi-way “shared street” that compels the motorist to behave socially. Bisecting Main Street, a bold half-mile public concourse connects the shared street to downtown Wahiawa across the canyon through a common with Agricultural Workforce Micro-housing, Commercial Food Tenants, a demonstration Food Forest, and a Bridge anchored by a Botanical Pavilion.

Connectivity: connect the Food Hub and Whitmore Village to downtown Wahiawa. The Bridge improves access from Wahiawa’s residential areas to the Food Hub Complex as a new employment center, especially among zero-car households residing in Wahiawa. The master plan harnesses the civic potential in logistics/transportation investments to solve for larger connectivity gaps—also economic and equity gaps—in the town’s urban fabric.

Anchoring: socialize the Food Hub’s big boxes and tilt wall concrete construction through mixed uses and civic frontages. While tilt wall concrete construction helps minimize the chance for contamination, its construction lacks an architectural or urban pedigree. To address this challenge, we shaped multiple civic building frontages as a shade economy to establish a welcoming, porous sense of place. Influences include traditional Hawaiian pavilion-and-court design, vernacular agriculture building types, and signature street environments, as they all produce high-quality urban places of dignity and generosity.

The cooperative nature of food hubs encourages integrated resource management among tenants. This involves the upcycling of tenant waste streams as inputs to feed another tenant’s production processes, akin to the “green” economies of integrated energy districts. The food hub eliminates the concept of waste, otherwise difficult when tenants are scattered in separate facilities. Food hubs’ aggregated economy of agricultural services and producers hold greater opportunity for implementing sustainable agricultural practices, otherwise untenable in a conventional market primarily focused on export commodity crops.


 O‛ahu, Hawai`i
 Hawai`i Department of Agriculture
 41342 mq
 University of Arkansas Community Design Center
 UA Community Design Center + UA Office for Sustainability
 University of Hawaii at Manoa, School of Architecture; University of Hawaii Community Design Center
 University of Arkansas Community Design Center


The University of Arkansas Community Design Center is an outreach center of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, and one of a few university-based teaching offices in the United States dedicated to delivering urban design work. Originated in 1995, the center advances creative development in Arkansas through design, research, and education solutions. Nationally recognized in public-interest design, the center has its own downtown facilities and 5-6 professional design/planning staff, some who also teach. Beyond the focus on urban projects, UACDC has developed eight place-making platforms to shape civic design and public policy at state and municipal levels. These interdisciplinary platforms include 'missing middle housing,' 'agricultural urbanism,' 'transit-oriented development,' 'context-sensitive street design,' 'watershed urbanism,' 'big box urbanism,' 'smart growth,' and 'low impact development,' vocabularies which are locally articulated but hold universal currency.

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