Doing something good and green: St. Louis’ Garden Lease Program

It’s not shocking news that there are a lot of empty lots in St. Louis. Some are from demolished homes, some are seized property for tax reasons, and some are failed development projects. They can be real eyesores. The city is trying to do something about those vacant lots though. (Sadly, it isn’t building affordable housing.) Instead, they are leasing them out to well-meaning individuals and community groups so that residents can build city gardens. And they’re doing it for $1.

That’s right. For the price of a side salad from the McDonald’s  value menu, you can rent enough land to grow your own mixed greens. The dollar leases the land for a whole year, unless it actually gets sold for development. The Garden Lease Program is sponsored by the Land Reutilization Authority, which is the biggest land owner in St. Louis. Thanks to St. Louis’s economic woes, the LRA owns hundreds of lots. These aren’t just blighted North St. Louis areas either, they have land by Tower Grove Park, the Bevo Mill area, Holly Hills, Cherokee Street, Lindenwood Park, the Central West End and a slew of other well thought of (and some downright trendy) regions.

This sort of program is win-win for St. Louis. It decreases the number of lots that the LRA has to provide maintenance for, creates more green space for the community, decreases illegal dumping and some of the other illicit dealings that go on in unsupervised spaces, and can even provide healthier food for communities found in food deserts. There’s no reason a community shouldn’t have a garden, other than St. Louis’s persnickety weather.