St. Louis's 'Urban Prairie': Vacant Land and the Potential for Revitalization

Image by Christopher Prener

Abstract

As part of a larger project to understand the relative health and disorder of St. Louis City neighborhoods, this paper presents estimates of the number of vacant parcels in the city. These estimates, which are considerably higher than previously published ones, are heavily concentrated in the city’s disinvested and segregated North side. We term this heavy concentration of vacancy as ‘urban prairie’. After accounting for other factors as well as possible sources of statistical error, we identify both long-term population loss since 1970 and the proportion of African American residents as significant covariates associated with the amount of urban prairie land per neighborhood. These high levels of concentrated vacancy lead us to critique the City’s existing approaches as being too limited in scope, and to suggest a range of possibilities for revitalizing portions of North St. Louis while allowing prairie land to continue to exist in others.

Publication
Journal of Urban Affairs
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Christopher Prener
Assistant Professor of Sociology

My research interests include first responder work, urban neighborhood disorder, and tracing the effects of place on poor health outcomes.