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FarmWorks project in north St. Louis begins second phase

FarmWorks project in north St. Louis begins second phase

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Now that Craig Heller has finished a housing development in a complex of old factories and vacant lots north of downtown St. Louis, the developer plans to move forward on the project’s second phase: installing a fish farm and other urban agriculture operations.

Heller said he hoped to have the entire project, dubbed FarmWorks, operating by early next year.

The developer said the urban agriculture portions of the project, at First Street and Cass Avenue, would cost about $7.5 million. The completed housing development, a renovated former sheet metal factory built in 1870, cost $9.8 million.

The housing development, called Stamping Lofts, comprises 56 studio apartments for ex-offenders, homeless veterans and others, many of whom will be trained to help run FarmWorks.

Residents pay 30 percent of their monthly income in rent, up to a maximum of $473, a leasing official said. The lofts, opened in February, already have 16 residents.

As the newspaper previously reported, a main component of FarmWorks will be an “aquaponics” fish farm inside a building adjacent to the four-story Stamping Lofts. Gardens will fill vacant lots on the 4.5-acre site. A “green” industry business incubator will focus on food processing and distribution to area restaurants and groceries.

Gateway Greening, a nonprofit provider of community food programs, will help direct FarmWorks’ production and train Stamping Lofts residents to grow and market food. St. Patrick Center workers will screen potential residents and provide job placement. Officials expect that most Stamping Lofts residents will move within a year as they gain job skills that will lead to other employment.

Stamping Lofts construction suffered a setback 13 months ago when high wind toppled part of an exterior brick wall. Workers had to stabilize, then rebuild the area that collapsed. The building, once the home of St. Louis Stamping Co., is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The housing project’s financing came from the sale of federal and state historic preservation tax credits, plus low-income housing tax credits issued by the Missouri Housing Development Commission. The St. Louis Equity Fund and Pinnacle Entertainment bought the tax credits. Pinnacle’s $2 million investment was part of its redevelopment agreement with the city over construction of Lumière Place, which is about six blocks south of FarmWorks.

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Tim Bryant is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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