The city of St. Louis is struggling. Vacant lots riddle the city’s landscape, unemployment affects far too many people, and the sprawl of the suburbs threatens to dissolve the city. These issues may seem insurmountable and crippling, but the liabilities themselves are some of St. Louis’ greatest assets in moving forward.
By reassessing and revaluing these “problems”, a new path for the city can begin to take shape. Vacant lots are no longer depressing landscapes where life and community were once found. Now they are areas of great opportunity: Available land within a dense fabric that can be put to work for the needs of the city. Converting vacancies into agricultural land to grow hearty vegetables and other beneficial crops — not just soy and corn for cows and cars— creates valuable resources. This agriculture conversion will require a large, new workforce to be trained and put to work — a great opportunity to increase the labor force with sustainable employment sectors that benefit the workers as much as their surroundings.
Pruitt-Igoe is the ideal location for such a revolution to begin. Its expansive vacant lot and proximity to downtown render it invaluable as a site for agriculture, energy, and employment generation. The former housing projects suffered from a misunderstanding and misuse of land. Rather than reject nature’s presence, we should form a symbiotic relationship with the land to foster growth and development for Saint Louis, its inhabitants, and the environment surrounding it. Conjecture and metaphor have riddled the outsider’s perspective of Pruitt-Igoe, but the land itself is no metaphor. It is a reality, and one that the people of St. Louis deserve to reclaim for themselves; it is an asset that can no longer be ignored.
Kevin Sheenan is a student in Amherst, MA.