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‘Sunflower Project’ sustains, revitalizes communities by filling vacant lots

ST. LOUIS - Just as plants need water to survive, the sunflowers on the corner of 14th and Warren are giving new life to an Old North St. Louis neighborhood.

"It's just a great way to get everyone involved and keeping Old North beautiful," said Markeya Thomas.

This summer, the Sunflower Project St. Louis is celebrating it's five-year anniversary. Initially a collaboration between the City of St. Louis and Washington University, the Missouri Botanical Garden now spearheads the project aimed at beautifying, sustaining, and revitalizing some of the city's high needs neighborhoods.

"By saving these lots, we hope that when developers come back into these areas they'll choose areas where there's already plumbing, sewage, electricity, instead of choosing new land to build homes," said Markeya Thomas, Missouri Botanical Gardens.

Brandiss Coleman has lived near the sunflower project lot since nearly it's inception and has seen first hand it's impact on her young children.

"I love it," said Coleman. "My kids actually help plant the sunflowers every year it's a nice backdrop for pictures and it's just nice scenery out here period they put benches up so we come out and chill out here sometimes."

Living in an area overrun with abandoned buildings, vacant lots and far too common crime, Coleman says the sunflowers come year after year as a welcome distraction.

"It helps change the scenery some because you're not focusing on those bad buildings anymore you're focusing on the flowers and everything instead of the negativity you're focusing on the flowers" Coleman said.

Changing communities in a big way, one small seed at a time.

"St. Louis has gone through some things and we are hopeful that developers will want to come back to the area and invest in these areas that were one thriving and have them thrive again," Thomas said.