The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District partnered with Chicago-based Greenprint Partners to transform Land Reutilization Authority parcels into a community asset.
ST. LOUIS – A block of six vacant parcels in the Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood have been approved for a total of $1 million in Rainscaping site improvements from the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD). The installations will collect and manage about 2.4 million gallons of rainfall each year from a 6.9 acre area, slowing rainwater down and increasing infiltration to improve Mississippi River water quality. This project represents MSD and implementation partner Greenprint Partners’ push for equitable distribution of funds and high-impact rainscaping projects in underinvested areas.
Part of the MSD Project Clear initiative, the Rainscaping Large Scale Grants Program reimburses landowners for the cost of green infrastructure development on properties within the combined sewer area. Projects, which can include stormwater best management practices such as rain gardens, porous pavement, planter boxes and more, help MSD meet its goal to reduce combined sewer overflows to the Mississippi and River des Peres watersheds.
Chicago-based Greenprint Partners, a mission-driven and women-owned B-Corporation, focuses on helping low-to-moderate income communities participate in green infrastructure grant programs to increase high-impact green space in dense urban spaces. Their work in St. Louis was catalyzed by a grant from The Kresge Foundation’s Environment Program, through its Climate Resilient and Equitable Water Systems (CREWS) initiative. Dr. Jalonne L. White-Newsome, Senior Program Officer at The Kresge Foundation and manager of the CREWS Initiative, said “Through MSD’s Project Clear initiative, St. Louis has become one of a handful of municipalities that are leading the way to citywide green infrastructure by offering grants to help large property owners install it on their sites to help control the increased flooding caused by climate change. The partnership between MSD and Greenprint Partners is helping to ensure that the benefits of green infrastructure like job creation, health and safety are accessible to all St. Louis communities, particularly low-income communities.”
Currently a contiguous block of vacant parcels and the buried foundations of demolished homes, the Land Bank-owned properties are destined to be transformed by Greenprint Communities (the nonprofit affiliate of Greenprint Partners) into a community-hub of green infrastructure and sustainable landscaping practices. In order to meet program requirements, Greenprint Partners purchased the affected properties from the LRA and signed a contract with MSD to guarantee long-term maintenance of the site. Greenprint Communities President, April Mendez, explained that “We have been exploring solutions for this LRA property since 2016, and determined that Rainscaping offers the most holistic solution, helping reduce stormwater runoff, increasing water quality, and making the green space more accessible for neighbors.” The designs incorporate rain gardens and interpretive educational signage. Construction onsite is scheduled to begin in May and complete in summer 2019. A community ribbon cutting event will be held over the summer to celebrate the opening and to invite neighbors to experience this space in a new way.
Ward 22 Alderman Jeffrey Boyd who has helped shape plans for the site and supported its transformation said, “Our community wants to see more projects like this that turn vacant, blighted properties into a neighborhood asset. We know that green space is important for community health and economic opportunity, and the Rainscaping grant opens up opportunities for our community to access these benefits.” A major driver in the MSD’s support for this project was its demonstration of a neighborhood scale approach to stormwater management. By repurposing a large number of vacant LRA properties, the project will manage a total volume of water not typically seen in other MSD Project Clear rainscaping grants, and will provide significant reductions to the overall volume of water entering the combined sewers in the area.
Bruce Litzsinger, MSD Assistant Director of Engineering said, “St. Louis is one of many communities dealing with combined sewer overflow issues during wet weather, however, MSD is committed to addressing this issue with forward-thinking solutions like neighborhood-scale green infrastructure. At the site level, these projects help protect some of St. Louis’ anchor organizations by helping to alleviate basement backups and sewer overflows, which can sometimes occur during heavy rain, while offering a host of quality-of-life benefits for the local community; at the city-level, these solutions are part of a broader effort to reduce water pollution.”