(these images are courtesy of Front Studio, as seen on BLDGBLOG):
(The one above actually reminds me of some out-of-the-way neighborhoods of Houston.)
Granted, community gardens have been springing up in the empty lots of rundown neighborhoods since back-to-the-hood urban homesteading movements (now known as "gentrification") began in the 1970s.
You might think that Farmadelphia's most innovative idea is that it treats these community plots not as hobby gardens, but as serious, profit-oriented agriculture to feed the city. But even this is nothing new: Havana, Cuba has been doing it for nearly 20 years now.
An urban farm in Havana (source)
When the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba lost its imports of oil, fertilizer, and grains - the things that sustained and justified the country's sugar-plantation agricultural system. The entire nation had to very quickly switch from a sugarcane monoculture to a distributed food-producing permaculture among small urban plots in order to avoid famine - and by and large they've succeeded.
So if our own Soviet sugar-daddies abandon us - if Wal-Mart shuts down, say, or China embargoes us - Farmadelphia might stand a chance.
Last but not least, here's the fire escape garden that Jess and I tended this past summer, as it was in the halcyon days of August.
Who needs an empty lot? Or Fidel, or fancy architects, for that matter?