St. Louis, MO
Sustainable Land Lab Competition
Vacant Land Map
Land Map Focus Area
Vacant Land Aerial Photo
Competition Kickoff
Competition Charrette
Sunflower+ Project
Chess Pocket Park
Bistro Box
Mighty Mississippians
HUB: Hybrid Urban Bioscapes
Sustainable Land Lab
The Sustainable Land Lab is a living laboratory of projects which showcase and test innovative ideas and integrated strategies for transforming one of the St. Louis region’s greatest challenges – vacant land – into an asset that advances triple-bottom-line sustainability. Initiated through a public competition, teams competed for the opportunity to demonstrate their ideas through tangible projects at the scale of a single or double vacant lots. Following two years of project implementation, the Land Lab conversation has expanded to explore scalable interim uses of vacant land and opportunities for capitalizing on currently vacant areas of the city to lay the groundwork for the sustainable city of 2030 and beyond.
Competition Details
  • Region
    • Midwest
  • city
    • St. Louis, MO
  • Neighborhood
    • Old North St. Louis (ONSL)
  • Project size
    • 5 lots; varying sizes
  • Total competition award
    • $25,000 in awards: $5,000 in seed funding to each of the five winning teams to implement their proposals
  • Project status
    • Varies; In Progress
Strategies Implemented
  • The Sustainable Land Lab Competition was launched as part of a 3-day Sustainable Cities conference hosted by Washington University in St. Louis in partnership with the City of St. Louis. The conference explored global, national and local efforts to create more sustainable and resilient cities. The Sustainable Land Lab Competition invited conference attendees and the broader community to translate ideas into action.
  • The competition Kick-Off on the second evening of the conference was held at the Contemporary Art Museum, where Ron Sims, former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, delivered a keynote speech. Competition organizers shared the background, vision, and process for the competition. Attendees had the opportunity to post their ideas for sustainable reuse of vacant land on large post-it notes.
  • The competition process included three submission rounds to allow teams to develop and refine their ideas. The initial field of 48 entrants was whittled to 15 in the second round, 8 in the third round, and finally 5 winners. The second round included a charrette where teams could meet and ask questions of the judges and organizers. The charrette also created an opportunity to promote collaboration and identify potential synergies between competing proposals. The eight finalist were required to submit a 2’x3’ project board; a plan, timeline and budget; and deliver a Pecha Kucha-style presentation to the jurors. The five winning teams were awarded $5,000 in seed funding with which to implement their proposals.
  • Neighborhood residents and the broader St. Louis community has been invited to observe and participate in the projects’ implementation through project workdays, community meetings, potlucks, bicycle tours and discussion panels.
    • Washington University in St. Louis ($15,000, staff time, marketing and communications support)
    • Rise (in-kind land lease)
    • Old North St. Louis Restoration Group (in-kind land lease, staff time, event space)
    • City of St. Louis (in-kind staff time, in-kind land lease)
    • Equifax ($25,000 over two years)
  • Project did not require policy or regulatory changes to implement
  • Project itself was not a new policy or regulation
Project Impacts
  • The competition experience underscored the importance of replicability of lot-scale projects to create broader impact.

  • The demonstration projects and public events associated with the competition helped build a public conversation about the overabundance of vacant land as a potential asset and resource with which to promote sustainability.

  • The competition was structured to highlight the existence of the City’s Garden Lease Program, a long-standing policy tool that the City uses to facilitate community projects on Land Reutilization Authority properties.

St. Louis, 2010

Pop. Loss Since Peak
Peak year: 1950
0 75
2010 Unemployment
0 75
2010 Poverty
0 75
2010 Res. Vacancy
0 75
Population Change
-30 0 15
Unemployment Change
-30 0 15
Poverty Change
-30 0 15
Res. Vacancy Change
-30 0 15