Jackson Park

The Sunflower Project in Old North St. Louis

Some parts of town just seem to have it together.  Whenever I visit Old North St. Louis, I seem to notice something new and positive each time.  A couple weeks ago I was up in ONSL exploring Jackson Park and drove west and noticed some beautiful new homes filling in vacant lots.

I also noticed some public art that reminded me of Tibetan prayer flags.

note the Stan Span in the distance

I stopped and walked around with my curiosity piqued.  I new I could research what was going on here, but I also wanted to talk to some locals about what was going on.

What better place than a coffee shop to get info, right?  I stopped in at La Mancha Coffeehouse at 14th Street and St. Louis Avenue.  I spoke to the barista while she served up a great cup of joe.  Turns out this empty lot on the 1300 block of Warren Avenue was tilled and planted with sunflowers to provide some interest in an otherwise dead space.  The flags were an addition to beautify the lot after harvest of the sunflowers.

If you have empty lots, why not make the best of them while they are in their transitional state...or fallow period?

I love stuff like this.  Empty lots don't tend to make people turn their heads and stop and get out of the car to investigate what's going on.  The Sunflower Project did just that.

Here's the story from Washington University's Sustainable Cities Land Lab Conference:

The Sunflower+ Project: StL 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 project will serve as an appropriate, scalable, and productive transitional solution. An experiment in the realms of phytoremediation, public art, public health, education and sustainability, the project will beautify the neighborhood and enhance the usability of the land in a low impact, low cost, and entrepreneurial manner. Using Lot #4, we propose planting a field of sunflowers with a repurposed rubble wall intervention marking the historic foundation line that would serve as a didactic tool for learning about history and sustainability. In addition to brightening the neighborhood, the sunflowers will serve the practical task of phytoremediation of the soil, while offering the potential for development of food or fuel products that could provide a source of local income. Alternative plantings will also be used to promote the remediation process year round. The Sunflower+ Project: StL is led by a multidisciplinary team with expertise in urban redevelopment, sustainability, horticulture, soils analysis, environmental air quality analysis, masonry, graphic design and communications, civil engineering and organic farming. (source)

The mix of agriculture and brick buildings is a thing of beauty to me.  I can't wait to come back and get some photos of the sunflowers in bloom.

Congrats to those working hard in Old North, your neighborhood is an example for the other 78 in St. Louis.