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New Agreement, Funding Pave Way For Land Trust Focused On North St. Louis Green Spaces

A rendering of Peace Park, located beside the Grand Avenue Water Tower in St. Louis’ College Hill neighborhood, shows everything from an entry plaza to a game area to pop-up vendor space.
Arbolope Studio
A rendering of Peace Park, located beside the Grand Avenue Water Tower in St. Louis’ College Hill neighborhood, shows an entry plaza, a game area and pop-up vendor space.

An ongoing effort to renew and maintain vacant spaces in several north St. Louis neighborhoods just received a big boost, with the St. Louis Development Corp. last week formalizing a collaboration that will create the St. Louis Community Land Trust.

The new agreement with the Missouri Department of Conservation marks the culmination of four years of research and planning that have resulted in “a model, a sustainability plan and some real money” to take the inter-organizational Green City Coalition to the next level, said Laura Ginn, SLDC’s vacancy strategist.

The funding includes a $1 million MDOC challenge grant plus matching funds from other public and private sources. In a city that has struggled with vacant properties, Ginn explained Tuesday on St. Louis on the Air that one benefit of the new trust is that it ensures long-term ownership and management of properties that are converted into green space.

“What a land trust does is it provides a mechanism for real community ownership, where the board is primarily residents [of] the neighborhoods, so that you can further plan around those green spaces and the structural development that will come next — with neighborhoods in mind, making sure the benefits are felt by people in the neighborhood and by people who've lived there for, you know, generations sometimes,” Ginn said. “So it's a way for us to kind of cap and shift power from the kind of top down that we've had so far, and really moving that into residents’ hands.”

As reported last Friday by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in addition to building community leadership, there are plans for the land trust to soon hire an executive director and eventually a land maintenance director and neighborhood outreach coordinator, among other staff.

St. Louis Community Land Trust Grows Possibilities For Vacant Space
Listen as host Sarah Fenske talks with the St. Louis Development Corporation's Laura Ginn.

In conversation with host Sarah Fenske, Ginn discussed what this ramped-up effort will mean for Peace Park in the College Hill neighborhood as well as six other current project sites in north St. Louis.

“For example, the Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood historically had two really large streams come in and converge right in the middle of that neighborhood,” Ginn said. “And as they were turned into sewer systems, the water still flows there. And so we have these ongoing water problem areas. So we’ve got about seven acres in that neighborhood that's being converted to more of a passive recreation space, as its primary function is to absorb water and help alleviate those issues.

“But then, next step, hopefully [it will be] a quality outdoor space to go and interact with nature. Residents have prioritized an orchard in that space. So there’s fruiting trees within and a part of that, but it’s kind of got this larger function behind it. And each neighborhood is different.”

The coalition’s Cabbage Patch site is all about food production, Ginn added, whereas a site in the Walnut Park neighborhoods is “increasingly [about] outdoor sports” such as shot put, discus and other throwing sports.

“It’s kind of for each community to determine what does the green space mean to them, and what's most needed there,” she said.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Evie was a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.