Green Infrastructure Below the Bottoms

Sourced from Landscape Architecture Magazine

Since 2010, Kansas City, Missouri, has been subject to a federal consent decree, to begin properly capturing sewage and stormwater before it flows into rivers and streams. It’s a consequence of the city’s overwhelmed combined sewer system, which covers 58 square miles. From 2002 to 2010, the system produced 1,300 illegal overflows, putting approximately 6.4 billion gallons of untreated sewage into waterways annually.

Notably, this is the first time a municipal water federal consent decree has allowed the use of green infrastructure, according to Andy Shively, a special assistant to the City Manager Troy Schulte, who works on issues relating to the consent decree. And the developer-driven West Bottoms Flats mixed-use residential complex designed by Kansas City-based BNIM is shaping up to be an influential test case for ways the private sector can grapple with public sector failure toward water quality goals.

Landscape architects at BNIM have designed the flats’ green infrastructure capacity to absorb excess stormwater as a series of placemaking amenities “in order to prevent it from being [value-engineered] from the project,” says Cheryl Lough, the director of BNIM’s landscape architecture studio.

Typical residential amenities often encompass a co-working space, a roof deck, and a pool (West Bottoms Flats includes rain gardens in this category)—all of which require investment from the developer. At West Bottoms Flats, the developer is Cleveland’s MCM, a redeveloper of historic buildings in neighborhoods it deems newly fit for residential development. The company has put up $500,000 for permeable pavement alleys, rain gardens, courtyards, and a stormwater cistern to collect rainfall from the nearly four-acre site, keeping it out of the city’s beleaguered sewer system.

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