Fresh Coast Capital Brings Trees to St. Louis

By Maggie McCarthy
In Culture

Fresh Coast Capital, a Chicago company committed to urban restoration, has purchased vacant lots in St. Louis City with the commitment to cultivate tree farms. Tree-planting began in the Wells Goodfellow neighborhood earlier this month. Community members are hopeful that these trees will bring economic growth and beauty to struggling neighborhoods.

urban tree farm st. louis

Photo courtesy of Exploring St. Louis

For some back ground, the struggle to overcome problematic results of vacant land has a long history in St. Louis. Population decline and flight to the suburbs dealt a harsh blow to neighborhoods throughout the city. As residents leave, jobs and property value take a nosedive with population levels. In response to this ever-increasing problem, the city founded the Land Reutilization Authority in 1971.

Now the oldest land bank in America, the LRA takes over properties when owners fail to pay taxes and the property doesn’t sell in public tax foreclosures. These lots are often difficult to sell—resulting in 11,000 land parcels owned by the LRA. Not only do these abandoned lots threaten the property value of entire neighborhoods, they also invite crime.

Along with the LRA, the city of St. Louis has become more determined to find innovative solutions for this threat to the economy and public safety. In hopes to encourage creative re-use of land, Mayor Francis Slay has adopted a sustainability agenda which seeks to make LRA land available at little-to-no cost.

Current incentives like “Mow to Own” encourage homeowners to acquire and maintain vacant lots. Many St. Louis residents already care for the abandoned lots adjacent to their homes. Now residents can take immediate ownership of these properties for a nominal fee. Participants in the initiative must remain committed to maintaining the lots for 24 months. To date, 62 St. Louis residents have taken ownership of these properties.

This is also where Fresh Coast Capital comes in. In addition to the “Mow to Own” initiative, the city is now partnering with Fresh Coast Capital to reduce the presence of unused land. The LRA has made property available to Fresh Coast for $1 per lot. These land parcels will be transformed into flourishing urban tree farms. As these farms increase the beauty and vitality of their neighborhoods, the estimated 27,000 trees will also serve as a barrier against air pollution.

“Fresh Coast’s urban tree farms will turn 42 unused lots from a liability that costs the City thousands of dollars a year to maintain to an asset for the community. This innovative reuse of land will create a more sustainable, resilient neighborhood,” says Mayor Slay.

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