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Using Green Infrastructure to Build Stormwater Farm that Combats Flooding and Revitalizes Community

Peoria, IL, USA
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Greenprint Partners
Contact Partner

Goverment Champion

Chief Innovation Officer & Department of Public Works

Cost

Zero Upfront Cost
Initial:
0 USD

Project Status

Operational since 2018

Keywords

greeninfrastructure
urban agriculture

Challenges Addressed

Flooding
Stormwater Management
Economic Development
Citizen Engagement
Workforce & Education

Motivation

Resilient city
Sustainable city

Funding / Financing

Federal grants

Project Type

Project
Service

At a Glance

Peoria's Well Farm transforms vacant land in one of the US' poorest zip codes into a working farm that combats flooding. Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) reduces sewer overflows while simultaneously addressing key community priorities: access to fresh food, job training, and a safe community gathering space.

Problem Addressed

The award-winning The Well Farm at Voris Field adds stormwater storage capacity to supplement the city’s combined sewer system which regularly overflows, sending polluted stormwater and raw sewage into the Illinois River. As one of the 100 poorest zip codes in the US, Peoria's south side not only has vacant land but also has food deserts with high unemployment. Peoria is working with the EPA to address its stormwater flooding and hopes to be the first city to do so with 100% GSI.

The City of Peoria used/is using innovative green stormwater infrastructure to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

Greenprint Partners engaged community representatives and identified an opportunity to develop green stormwater infrastructure that not only combats flooding and water pollution, but also improves the south side's food desert and unemployment challenges. Using a benefits-driven design approach to this project, Greenprint Partners empowered the city of Peoria and community stakeholders to prioritize which co-benefits (e.g. cleaner air, job creation, less crime, etc.) were most important to them through surveys and design workshops. Peoria’s community agreed that increased access to healthy local produce, job creation, and a safe community gathering space were most desired. The resulting insights guided the final design of the GSI installation and resulted in the working “stormwater farm” that features a hybrid poplar forest, 100 raised garden beds, flowering bioswales, and a space for public gatherings. The farm also inspired a partnership with a faith-based urban agriculture nonprofit, The Gift in the Moment Foundation, to train youth and adults to cultivate, harvest, and sell the fresh produce, flowers, and timber locally as well as work with the City of Peoria to launch a GSI maintenance job program. This partnership not only creates local jobs but also offers citizens more access to fresh produce in a food desert. A USDA NRCS Conservation Innovation grant enabled the design and execution of an innovative 1.6 acre “stormwater farm” demonstration project. To date, the project has won the 2019 Illinois Green Alliance 'Emerald Award for Community Engagement' and the 2019 Sun Foundation 'Making Waves' award.

Outcomes

  1. Created up to 20 youth internships and adult apprenticeships annually
  2. Increased local access to fresh produce in a food desert
  3. Greened 1.6 acres, enhancing permeable surface area
  4. Management of 1.3 million gallons of stormwater annually

Something Unique

This project's success was made possible by the strong interdisciplinary partnership between private sector experts, nonprofits, community volunteers, and government agencies. Everyone from the Mayor and City Council to a 20-member stakeholder advisory group representing the local area worked together.

Who Should Consider?

Any city facing stormwater overflows, flooding, and water pollution looking to improve through green stormwater infrastructure, especially cities with underutilized or vacant parcels.

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