When you pull up to the row of shops in Whitemarsh Plaza where Thrive, A Carryout Cafe sits, there’s one place you won’t be parking your car.
That’s the repurposed parking spot that’s been converted into an eco–friendly and quite charming little outdoor dining area.
The unusual project represents the combined work and vision of Professor Scott Boylston’s Green Design class at SCAD, the local nonprofit Emergent Structures, and Thrive chef/owner Wendy Armstrong, with assists from the MPC and the shopping center landlord.
The hallmark of the patio area is the array of cedar planters walling it off from the rest of the parking lot, containing a variety of plants and herbs.
When grown, the plants will be transported to a garden plot at Oatland Island Education Center just down Highway 80, and other plants from that garden will take their place in the patio planters.
“We’ll have sort of a happy circle of life, with plants moving from here to there and back again,” says Armstrong, taking us around the planters to identify what’s in them: indigenous Georgia lovegrass, aloe, tomato, lavender, among others. “A lot of them are drought–proof species, so they won’t require much water.”
Part of that “circle of life” involves composting food waste at the Oatland garden, which is primarily tended by Thrive staffer Erica Scheideker.
“Our plot is right next to the bison,” she says, referring to a beloved part of the Oatland menagerie. “They’re awesome — it’s really fun being around them.”
The whole patio idea began to take shape – literally – when Armstrong heard about the work that Emergent Structures does in using reclaimed materials.
“These planters are all made out of wood from buildings that were torn down,” she explains. “When we heard about the work Emergent Structures was doing it seemed like a perfect fit for what we wanted to do here.”
There’s even a plaque on the wall explaining which buildings contributed wood. The heart pine studs, for example, come from 1940s apartments in Savannah Gardens built for WWII shipyard workers.
The patio continues Thrive’s outstanding sustainability record, which has made it one of only two Green Certified restaurants in the state.
Sometime soon, Armstrong will host a “sealing party” wherein SCAD students will apply a varnish–like sealant to the cedar planters. Except even the sealant here will be sustainable.
“Usually eco–friendly sealant is very expensive,” says Armstrong. “But we were able to find a company in Vermont that was willing to donate it. Their sealant is actually derived from whey — it’s from milk! How cool is that?”