Coming Soon To Vacant Lots in St. Louis: Chess, Farming, Sunflower Rehab

Coming Soon To Vacant Lots in St. Louis: Chess, Farming, Sunflower Rehab

A restaurant made from shipping containers was among the winners. (Courtesy Sustainable Land Lab)

The winners of St. Louis’ first-ever “Sustainable Land Lab” competition, put on by Washington University and city officials, attempted to make the most of a regrettably abundant resource: vacant lots.

Local architects took top honors in a competition that garnered some four dozen submissions. Each winner gets a two-year lease on a North St. Louis vacant lot and $5,000 in seed money to realize their ideas. Five winning projects will share four lots (two finalist teams combined their proposals into one new plan) across the city.

1. Bistro Box  / Renewing Roots Urban Farm (now called Our Farm) — Repurposed shipping containers comprise a small, unpretentious restaurant attached to an urban farm.

2. Chess Pocket Park — Just what it sounds like.  A small park meant to build community around outdoor chess tables.

3. Mighty Mississippians — A “modern agricultural model” would combine farming, recreation and environmental remediation in a permacultural park.

4.Sunflower+ Project — A test plot for environmental remediation via sunflower and winter wheat farming. The plants will be encouraged through electroculture, an experimental farming technique that uses electricity to encourage plant growth.

St. Louis, like many cities pock-marked with vacant land, spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year just mowing vacant parcels. The land lab competition follows other innovative design competitions, like Flint, Michigan’s Flat Lot and the Cleveland Design Competition, that encourage adaptive reuse and creative public projects throughout the Midwest.

A ground-breaking ceremony is scheduled for April 27.

Sunflower+ Project. (Courtesy Sustainable Land Lab) Mighty Mississippians. (Courtesy Sustainable Land Lab) Chess Pocket Park. (Courtesy Sustainable Land Lab) Renewing Roots Urban Farm. (Courtesy Sustainable Land Lab)