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Forty-two vacant lots in St. Louis will become tree farms, urban agriculture and green infrastructure projects through a partnership between the city and Chicago-based development firm Fresh Coast Capital.

Mayor Francis Slay hailed the news on Thursday, saying in a statement that such projects will turn empty lots from a liability that costs the city thousands of dollars a year to maintain into an asset.

The 42 lots make up about 3 acres of land, and all are in the city’s 22nd Ward in north St. Louis, around the area of Clara and St. Edward avenues.

About 1,500 hybrid poplars will be planted.

The city’s Land Reutilization Authority made the 42 parcels available for $1 to Fresh Coast Capital, which describes itself as an investment and real estate development firm “with an environmental and social mission.” It redevelops large tracts of vacant, blighted and contaminated land in the Midwest and Rust Belt into working landscapes, according to Slay’s office.

The LRA is charged with maintaining such vacant land in St. Louis. The agency was established in 1971 to take over properties that landowners no longer wanted or had abandoned, according to the city. When a property owner does not pay taxes for five years, the city’s collector of revenue may sue and foreclose. There are at least five public tax foreclosure sales per year. Any properties not sold at the foreclosure sale are transferred into the LRA inventory to be maintained, marketed and sold, the city said.

Fresh Coast Capital plans to use $1 million to fund pilot projects on 60 acres across several cities, including St. Louis and the Indiana cities of Elkhart and Gary; the Michigan cities of Battle Creek and Flint; Youngstown, Ohio; and Kansas City.

The project is expected to result in the planting of an estimated 27,000 trees resulting in the sequestering of 28 million pounds of carbon dioxide over 15 years.

Land Reutilization Authority in St. Louis

Ann Holmes, 46, of St. Louis, walks past a row of vacant lots and a pair of burned out homes owned by the St. Louis Land Reutilization Authority in the 4300 block of St. Louis Avenue on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012. Photo By David Carson,

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Leah Thorsen is a regional reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Email her at and follow her on Twitter: @leahthorsen