Update: Sustainable Land Lab Winners Projects

A Look at the progress the Land Lab Winners are making with their projects.

July 9, 2013 | 4 min reading time

This article is 9 years old. It was published on July 9, 2013.


Update 7.9.2013

Hi All:

Just wanted to say hello and thanks for your support and participation in the Sustainable Land Lab Project and to give you an update on the progress of the Sunflower + Project: STL. We are very happy to announce that our first sunflower bloom is peaking out and we hope to see more in the coming days. The tallest plants are waist high and most are well over 18". Since our last update, we have confirmed with soil testing through MU Extension that the 1318-24 Warren Street site is free of unhealthful levels of heavy metals. We are now pursuing markets for ornamental sunflowers in the short term. Neighborhood response has been very positive from our interactions on the street and on social media. Please visit our Facebook page for more details. https://www.facebook.com/SunflowerProjectstl Our rubble walls and first benches are nearly complete and we hope to finish the rest in the next week plus.

Best of luck to all.

Don & Richard & the Rest of the Sunflower +: Stl Team

Previous Post 5.17.2013

The City of St. Louis is poised to lead the way in innovative solutions to the national urban issue of vacant land, thanks to a unique partnership between the City and Washington University.

Four of the City's vacant lots will become the new home for five projects that test new ways to think of vacant space. From a franchise-model urban farm co-existing next to an intimate bistro built out of shipping containers, to a sunflower lab piloting efficiency of plant-based soil remediation, Old North St. Louis will be the first home to what will truly be a Sustainable Land Lab.

Please join us at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 18 at 1318 Warren Street in Old North St. Louis as the following winners of the inauguralSustainable Land Lab break ground:

  • Bistro Box and RR Farm: The Bistro Box concept is a small business incubator that transforms surplus cargo containers into a compact restaurant and culinary destination. RR Farm is a scalable urban agriculture network that proposes to transform blighted lots into cost efficient models of sustainability. Two finalist teams will share a single lot due to the synergy between the two projects.
  • Chess Pocket Park: An outdoor community chess venue for residents with a permanent location that supports our primary community asset – people.
  • Mighty Mississippians: A modern agricultural and sustainable living model, the premises for this approach are rooted in regional history – the Mississippians and their ancestors. Using concepts of permaculture, the site will demonstrate the interdependent relationships that work efficiently and sustainably in nature and that worked for previous civilizations, from the soil to the birds, to humans.
  • Sunflower+ Project: Proposes turning previously developed urban lots into a community asset through the planting of sunflowers. With a goal of eventually spurring redevelopment of these vacant parcels, the sunflowers will improve soil quality, remove soil contaminants and eventually produce a marketable set of products from flowers to seeds to biodiesel.

 Each winning project will receive a two-year land lease and $5,000 seed money to start the project.

In the inaugural year of this city-wide competition, the pilot sites will be hosted in Old North St. Louis.

"The Sustainable Land Lab Competition is exploring innovative ideas for a national issue. From urban to suburban to rural communities, vacant land is an American epidemic," Phil Valko, Director of Sustainability at Washington University, said."This competition is adding to the dialogue and the body of problem solving. The aspect that makes it especially unique is that the winners will actually win land and money to build their idea."

The competition timing aligns well with the release of the first City of St. Louis Sustainability Plan.

"Advancing tangible and measurable sustainability has been an important goal of this project," Catherine Werner, Sustainability Director for the City of St. Louis, said. "Part of the challenge was for the teams to specifically address how their projects will help achieve the City's sustainability goals. It's very exciting to now have the opportunity to watch as creative sustainability ideas become reality."

"I am thrilled that we have been able to partner with Washington University on this project," St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said. "There was an overwhelming amount of interest and support from the community and the result was a high level of energy and an impressive array of final project ideas, making it difficult to select just a few winning projects. I look forward to celebrating and learning from the winning projects and using ideas from all of the projects involved to address vacant land use in the City."

Forty-eight teams applied in the first of a three-round competition. The final round consisted of eight ideas representing 10 of the original teams.

All of the submissions can be found online at http://sustainablecities.wustl.edu/land-labs-competition/submissions/.The competition brief, which outlines the goals and context for this initiative, can be found online at http://sustainablecities.wustl.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/SustainableLandLab_CompetitionBrief_110212.pdf

The Sustainable Land Lab is a partnership between Washington University and the City of St. Louis, with support from Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, Equifax and the Regional Housing and Community Development Alliance.It is the ongoing legacy of Washington University's three-day Sustainable Cities Conference, held Nov. 1-3, 2012. The Sustainable Land Lab is designed to be a living laboratory of two-year demonstration projects, which will showcase innovative ideas and integrated strategies for transforming one of the region's greatest challenges — vacant land — into an asset that can advance sustainability.

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