Assembly Row Is Home to a Thriving Urban Garden

The gardens supply produce to the complex's restaurants and the Somerville community.

Assembly Row

The garden at Assembly Row. Photo provided to

A few years ago, the land that now houses Assembly Row was one of the largest brownfields sites—defined by the EPA as unused property that may be compromised by pollutants and or contaminants—in the state. Since June, however, the once-wasted space has housed a thriving urban garden.

“It was certainly an area of our property that we really didn’t have a plan for,” says Matt Ehrie, vice president and general manager of Assembly Row. “It was taking something that wasn’t quite visually appealing and turning it into something sustainable and that gives back to our neighborhood.”

Somerville-based urban farming group Green City Growers helped Assembly Row rehab the space. Now, with their assistance, the garden supplies produce and herbs, ranging from scallions to zucchini, to restaurants located in the complex. Papagayo uses the garden’s basil and blackberries in its blackberry mint margarita and its tomatoes and peppers in its salsa, while River Bar harvests its fresh herbs and vegetables. “It’s our version of farm-to-table,” Ehrie says.

Beyond that, software company SmartBear uses the 10 garden beds in its company wellness programming, educating employees about how to grow their own food, and Green City Growers teaches an on-site urban farming workshop once a month through the Assembly gROWs program. Ehrie says he’s interested in partnering with Somerville schools in the future, too.

And while it may not be typical for an outdoor mall to support urban gardening initiatives, Ehrie says it all ties into Assembly Row’s goal of making itself a real part of the Somerville community.

“I think it’s really the pillar of what we’re doing here, is creating a neighborhood,” he says. “We look at it differently than just an outlet mall. It should be somewhere where you want to spend your time.”

The next Assembly gROWs program will be September 23 at 5:30 p.m. 340 Canal St., Somerville,