Spark Food District in Santa Giulia Milan
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Spark Food District in Santa Giulia ‒ the first LEED neighbourhood in Milan

It's a first for Italy: a blend of food-service, cultural and sports spaces for an eco-city of the future

Spark Food District in Santa Giulia Milan
By Redazione The Plan -

Can the urban transformation of a neighbourhood change the prospects of an entire city? It seems so, looking at what’s happening in Milan. Not that Milan is new to experimentation and innovation, also regards architecture and urban planning. But starting off from the design of a district, the fusion of sustainability with accessibility and a cutting-edge approach results in a flavour that has a special tang to it. This is the new Spark Food District in Santa Giulia: the first Italian neighbourhood to be awarded LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) certification. One of the interesting aspects is that the food ‒ in a combination of delivery, catering and restaurant services ‒ is an authentic engine capable of powering the upgrade of this part of the city. 

Occupying a strategic position and well-connected in infrastructure terms, the district is already looking to the near future, preparing for its involvement in the Milan-Cortina 2026 Winter Olympics and the new Santa Giulia residential area. Lendlease has signed the first rental contracts for some of the 2,100 m2 of available space in the food district: Flower Burger, La Piadineria and Poke House have already opened, soon to be joined by Billy Tacos, Smokery by Roadhouse, Shi's, Pizzikotto, Bun and Cioccolati Italiani. The estimated potential number of annual visitors for the entire Spark Business District is calculated at over 10 million people ‒ giving a good idea of the value of this urban regeneration. 

But what was required to gain LEED-ND certification? And how will the neighbourhood become one of the most sustainable and liveable in the world?


 Courtesy of Lendlease


Spark Food District in Santa Giulia ‒ the first LEED neighbourhood in Milan

Lendlease has sealed the first binding agreements for the premises (ranging from 80 to 300 m2 in size) that will open at the foot of the Spark One and Spark Two towers in the new Santa Giulia development. The entire food district will offer about 2,100 m2 of food-service spaces and will be the heart of the new neighbourhood that is currently under construction. The first businesses opened here on 10 February, and all the other units will be operational by the end of spring. Simultaneously and in line with Lendlease’s aim of making Santa Giulia a new centre for the Milan area, a series of social and cultural activities and sports initiatives will get underway to endow outdoor public spaces with additional attraction all year round. All these factors enabled the neighbourhood to reach a high score for LEED-ND certification ‒ a score also labelling it as the first Italian district to achieve this prominent international certification.

In fact, LEED-ND certification recognises the worth of real estate developments fostering an integrated approach to quality of life, collective health and respect for the environment, encouraging best practices oriented to analysing the local context, choosing locations in relation to environmental conservation and optimal connection with public transport ‒ all inherent features in the Spark Food District.


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Food as a common ground for the project

Choice in food was the departure point for the entire urban regeneration, developed to provide innovative formats to respond to the varied needs of the public, ranging from office workers through to residents in the neighbourhood. The aim was to give a very precise purpose to this area, and food was opted for as common ground, at all hours of the day.


 Courtesy of Lendlease


The 12 food premises are certified as Grade A, LEED Platinum and WELL Gold, and have been designed to satisfy the most contemporary trends in the food-service sector: flexibility, outdoor seating integrated with public neighbourhood amenities, and control systems for safety and hygiene.


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The arrival of food businesses in the Spark Food District is the result of great teamwork, despite the challenges posed by this complex pandemic period, commented Fabrizio Zichichi, Lendlease Project Director for Milan Santa Giulia. Over 30 companies have shown interest, illustrating that the market is recovering and operators are focusing on large-scale long-term urban regeneration projects in particular. The winning key was the inclusion of proposals for community socialisation and wellness while working to relaunch the Santa Giulia area.


We shall soon see just how the first Italian LEED-ND-certified neighbourhood will drive other urban regeneration initiatives. 


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Location: Milano

Real Estate operator: Lendlease

Photography: courtesy of Lendlease

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