Baden Community Open Space Plan

Baden community garden. Photo by Rod Barnett.

Posted by Liz Kramer December 22, 2017


After two years of collaborating with organizations and residents in the Baden neighborhood, a team led by professor Rod Barnett has completed the Baden Community Open Space Plan. In the voids created by voluntary buyout and demolition, the Baden neighborhood has an opportunity to redefine how infrastructure and greenspace can come together to create a space that serves residents. The team of partners has included the Green City Coalition, the City of St. Louis' Sustainability Office, the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Missouri Botanical Garden, and the Riverview West Florissant Development Corporation.

The multidisciplinary partnership engaged faculty from environmental studies, environmental engineering, political science, public health, landscape architecture, and more. The landscape initiative began with an exploratory studio in spring 2016, when Master of Landscape Architecture students performed a comprehensive study of the area and identified potential opportunities for storm water management infrastructure that would also enable residents to connect to nature.

In summer 2016, Barnett and a team of research assistants collaborated with the on-the-ground team to engage residents to understand their needs. The data gathered during this phase, combined with ecological data points and public health assessments collected in the community, informed the proposed masterplan.

The Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) is responsible for managing sewer and storm water in the St. Louis region. Under an earlier consent decree, MSD is required to address the problems of combined sewer overflows and complete sewer system improvements. Some of these solutions utilize green infrastructure, an approach to water management that mimics the existing water cycle. Other solutions involve more traditional engineering, such as storm water detention basins that are not accessible to the public.

The Baden Community Open Space Plan challenges these conventional approaches and proposes solutions that are both accessible and beneficial to the surrounding community. The completed proposal is a strategy for a large-scale, long-term series of community projects. It offers a framework of ground-plane contouring, planting, and infrastructure that integrates with MSD's plans for water management.

The proposal includes three gardens, one located at each basin site—a prairie garden, a glade garden, and a woodland garden—that reflect the regional ecologies of Missouri. These basin gardens act as sponges to soak up extra water during times of heavy rain, and slowly release it into the storm water management system. The gardens are connected by a landscape that "glues" together the sites, utilizing land that is not owned by the City of St. Louis or MSD.

The Baden Community Open Space Plan includes more detailed concepts for these three sites, as well as for community hubs and connecting land between the sites. Future visions for this area may include a community amphitheater, boardwalks, and connective paths for cyclists and walkers, in addition to functional storm water infrastructure that manages heavy rain events. To bring this plan to fruition, the various partners in Baden must utilize funding available through MSD, and build new relationships to implement supplementary components of the scheme that do not impact storm water management, and are therefore outside of MSD's funding capacity.

This proposal offers a template for integrated, long-term green infrastructure implementation for the St. Louis region, and shows an opportunity to go beyond traditional infrastructure to offer greater social and environmental benefits to residents while addressing critical storm water challenges.