Stories

Peoria converts vacant land into a flourishing stormwater farm

Vacant land in Peoria, IL was transformed into green stormwater infrastructure that reduces sewage overflow while providing residents access to fresh produce, job training, and a safe community gathering place.

Environmental ServicesFacilities & InfrastructurePublic Private Partnership (PPP)Citizen Services
Newsworthy
Grand opening of Well Farm sparks hope for Peoria's environment
The saying goes "When it rains it pours." And when it pours, the rainfall causes lots of issues in the River City. 
CIProud.com
"Growing" Stormwater Solutions (and Local Residents' Skills) - City of Peoria Stormwater Utility
Peoria has a special farm where bioswales, a stormwater forest and other green infrastructure absorbs excess stormwater and helps prevent sewer overflows.
City of Peoria Stormwater Utility
Stormwater farm benefits to be celebrated Saturday Downtown - News - Journal Star - Peoria, IL
PEORIA — You won't have to drive into the country to visit this farm. The Well Farm at Voris Field, boasting 126 trees and 100 raised planter beds, will be the scene for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and community barbecue at 1 p.m. Saturday. The urban farm in Downtown Peoria is flourishing on once-vacant property at 1013 SW Reed Ave. on land originally purchased in 1835 by brothers Francis and Samuel Voris, farmers attracted to Peoria by the rich soil. Today the farm attracts urban
Journal Star
A Blueprint for Financing Green Stormwater Infrastructure | Conservation Finance Network
In a few Rust Belt cities that are seeking economic and social benefits, Greenprint Partners – formerly known as Fresh Coast Capital – is breaking new ground by financing fresh solutions for green stormwater infrastructure. It is using a combination of municipal, private and government resources. Its goals are to create a replicable model and expand the market.
Conservation Finance Network
In Peoria, Green Infrastructure As a Path to Social Equity – Next City
A first-of-its-kind project to divert stormwater, expand green space and create jobs.
Nextcity
Highlights
  • The trees and plants at the Well Farm capture runoff from a 1.5 acre area, preventing an estimated 1.3 million gallons of stormwater from entering Peoria’s sewer system each year.
  • The Well Farm gathering place delivers $1.50 in economic activity for every $1 invested and has already created 30 full-time jobs.
  • The Well Farm is the winner of the 2019 U.S. Water Alliance U.S. Water Prize, the 2019 Illinois Green Alliance Emerald Award, and the 2019 Sun Foundation Making Waves Award.
  • The Well Farm project will capture more than 3000 pounds of harmful air pollutants over the next 30 years, and save more than $8,000 in public health expenses.
Project Summary

The Vacant Land

Sewer Overflows in an Impoverished Food Desert

South Peoria, the portion of the city that makes up zip code 61605, is one of the 100 poorest zip codes in the country. The city's sewer system regularly overflows causing flooding in this area and sending polluted stormwater into the Illinois River. The impoverished neighborhoods most impacted by the flooding are home to the city's most concentrated minority population.
The city of Peoria has been working the Environmental Protection Agency to eliminate these sewer overflows with the long-term goal of becoming the first city with 100% green stormwater infrastructure. The city teamed up with Greenprint Partners, a Chicago-based green infrastructure delivery partner, to secure a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program. Their proposal involved building green stormwater infrastructure on vacant property in the area. This project called "The Well Farm" would address not only the sewer overflows but also the city's largest food desert by bringing urban agriculture into the nieghborhood.

The Well Farm

Community-Driven Green Infrastructure and Urban Agriculture

The Well Farm project was established with a $1 million CIG program grant awarded to Greenprint Partners, also known as Fresh Coast Capital, and the city of Peoria. Other partners involved in the project's development included AKRF, a New York-based engineering consulting firm, the Gifts in the Moment (GITM) Foundation a local faith-based, urban agriculture, non-profit and a coalition of community members. The project was designed to transform the vacant lot in Voris Field located at 1013 SW Reed Avenue into a stormwater forest. A public groundbreaking was conducted at the site in October 2017 and the Well Farm was officially opened to the public in June 2018.
According to Greenprint Partners, the design of the Well Farm is diverse and robust including:
The produce raised through this agriculture apprenticeship program is sold by local farmers markets at the Riverfront Market partially addressing a serious food shortage in the area. The green infrastructure across the 1.5 acre area that makes up the Well Farm prevents an estimated 1.3 million gallons of stormwater from entering the city's sewer system each year. This flourishing community gathering place has already created 30 full-time jobs, 20 internships annually, and delivers a direct 150% return on any investment in terms of local economic activity.
According the Kari Cohen, Branch Chief of the Conservation Innovations Team at the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) the Well Farm represents a blueprint for other national community-driven green infrastructure projects:

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🏅 Awards
US Water Prize - Private Sector Category
Resources
Greenprint Partners Press Release
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