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Sparc's Willow Reserve Project.

Turner, Elizabeth

The Willow Reserve Project location is a large piece of land owned by Sparc on the NE corner of Maryland and Arundel in St. Paul. Sparc purchased the land in 2005 and hopes to develop it sometime in the next five years. Sparc decided to purchase the land as the availability to purchase a site of this caliber in older neighborhoods is very rare. Furthermore, Sparc wanted to ensure the neighborhood had input into the final development. The Willow Reserve is located at the North end of the property, a government-owned nature preserve which is heavily wooded and contains a marshy pond and wetlands. That land was purchased decades ago to provide a resting area for migratory birds. As well, the wetlands function as an overflow spot for the Trout Brook storm water management system. The land is owned by City of St. Paul (Public Works), but many different organizations have a stake in any future use of that land, including, but not limited to, the aforementioned Public Works, the Capital Region Watershed District, and the City of St. Paul Department of Parks and Recreation. Sparc's lot slopes up from this area to meet the road and has several large trees. It was formerly the home of a greenhouse and single family home which were demolished in 2008, leaving the property clear of unnatural obstructions except for one utility pole. There are no known pollutants in the soil, and some perennials such as rhubarb still thrive on the property. In 2006, Sparc developed plans to build 32 townhouse units on the site. However, due to the declining market, they were unable to secure funding. Intrigued by Alchemy Architects House and use of prefabrication, in 2008 they began conversations about working on a potential development with the firm and Alchemy produced some rough massing plans showing possible arrangements of units. Sparc began to dream of creating an 'urban ecovillage' which could be sustainably designed, include green mixed-use development, and possibly use prefabricated technology which could be replicated throughout the neighborhood. In Summer 2009, they hired a Research Assistant to explore these possibilities through the University of Minnesota's Center for Urban and Regional Affairs and its Neighborhood Partnership for Community Research (NPCR) program. This paper is the result of that collaboration.

Publication date: 
Conducted on behalf of Sparc. Supported by Neighborhood Partnerships for Community Research (NPCR), a program of the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA), University of Minnesota.
52 pp.
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