New ideas for vacant land in St. Louis City


by Diana Zoga / News 4

Posted on April 24, 2013 at 10:19 PM

 (KMOV) -- Five upstarts will receive a free, two year lease on vacant land in the City of St. Louis in an effort to build parks, gardens, and at least one business.

The plots of land are located in the Old North St. Louis Neighborhood and make up a handful of the 20,000 vacant parcels of land in St. Louis.  About half are privately owned and the other half are owned by the Land Reutilization Authority and maintained by the city.
Catherine Werner, St Louis' new Sustainability Director, says a new project may help land owners and the city rethink how the vacant land can be used.
"Part of that is the city saying we're going to work with you and cut that red tape and work through this process and this is our first chance to do that  and see if we can't make these things happen smoother and streamline the process a little bit more," said Werner.
St. Louis and Washington University partnered to find new upstarts and offer the groups a chance to revitalize land that was sitting unused.
Washington University and the private company, Equifax, offered seed money to each upstart.  Each group gets $5,000 and a two-year lease on a plot of land.  Five groups were selected out of the dozens of applications submitted.  
The Sustainable Land Lab winners include a group that plans to build a small park where people can play chess at 2713 North 14th Street.  Another group plans to plant sunflowers in an experiment to determine if the plants would improve soil quality and make city lots more desirable to developers.  
One group is working to raise enough money to rehab old shipping containers and build a pop-up restaurant with a small, urban farm next door.
"They've actually raised $80,000.  They'll need to raise quite a bit more.  However, they have a really strong idea and a really strong team," said Washington University's Sustainability Director Phil Valko.
Asked whether it's a risk, Valko replied that all the projects are a risk.
"If we don't take risks, we're not doing it the right way.  We figure that its such a major challenge for the city, twenty thousand vacant parcels, we need to start taking risks and we need to start trying some hard things," said Valko.
Click here for more information from Wash U. 
Click here for more information from St. Louis.