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(Public) Land Use and Civic Data Infrastructures in St. Louis

I used the analytic question to do a quick survey of open or civic data infrastructure in St. Louis. The city's open data portal features a database on their strategic land use program (SLUP), initiated in 2005, and an overview of sustainability initiatives in relation to land use

I then looked further into current developments or articulations for civic data infrastructures based on this available data. A recent example is STL Vacancy, an initiative that is prototyping a map/database that displays information on vacant land in St. Louis. This news report (Walker 2018) provides figures on vacant lands in St. Louis, a background to the initiatives emergence and a first look at the prototype. According to the report, there are 20,187 vacant properties (half of them belonging to the city), which create a total of $17 million in yearly maintenance costs for the city. Further, the need to map and visualize these properties was picked up during the first "hackathon" in 2017 and carried forward by the OpenSTL group in a public-private partnership with other institutions. The article mentions that the map draws on a total of 12 data sources: “Seven data sets come from the city’s building division; two from the Land Reutilization Authority; and more from the assessor’s office on taxes and property values and the forestry department which maintains vacant land" (Walker 2018). The initiative's goal is to "provide tools to community stakeholders in order to work together more efficiently; to keep properties on the tax roll; reduce vacancy; and get properties back into productive use faster" (ibid). The article also links to an online guide that should "help local government officials, neighborhood associations, community-based nonprofits, residents, business owners, and other stakeholders better understand how to work together to use existing tools to address vacant property in the City of St. Louis."

This seems to be an interesting case for how civic/open infrastructure is currently imagined and developed. Interestingly, the discourse and arguments are driven by an economic incentive to make better use of the vacant lots, while questions of urban sustainability or our understand of anthropocenics seem to be less prominent.

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