The first phase in the construction of an urban farm gets underway in the Downtown Eastside this week.

Atop 15,000 square feet of asphalt, volunteers will be building giant planters and built-in composters in the hopes that, come spring, produce will be growing on five empty lots beside the Astoria Hotel.

Bryce Gauthier is a landscape architect with Sharp and Diamond Landscape Architects, which is working with Projects in Place and United We Can to build the garden at Hastings Street and Hawks Avenue.

“Ultimately it will be about 3,500 square feet of urban farm space,” said Gauthier.

He said employment opportunities are a “huge aspect” of the project, which will provide local organic food to Vancouver restaurants and soup kitchens.

“There are a lot of groups that are trying to make the Downtown Eastside a green economic zone … to create employment opportunities in a unique way that makes the environment better,” he said.

“Most of the people who do the composting do it on bikes and a large aspect of the farm is served by non-motorized transportation.”

He added that the aesthetics of the DTES will be improved in the process.