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A Cutting-Edge Rain Garden in Kansas City

6/13/2011 12:00:00 AM

Tags: rain garden, food garden, stormwater runoff, stormwater management, Kansas City, Missouri

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailLast month I posted about rain gardens, which help restore natural drainage patterns by capturing stormwater in depressions in yards and along roadsides, using plants—usually native—that catch and divert runoff into the ground and filter contaminants. A reader asked if we could show a larger photo of a rain garden, and I’m happy to oblige. This gives me an opportunity to share about Kansas City’s cutting-edge 18Broadway project, an urban rainwater-harvesting food garden in the heart of downtown that is the first of its kind in the country.

As Jessica Kellner reports in Natural Home & Garden, this garden was built to help tackle the city’s stormwater and wastewater treatment problems. An underground 40,000-gallon rainwater-catchment cistern is fed by rainwater that’s filtered through a street-level bioswale system—a vegetation-filled drainage system that captures and filters rain or other water to grow food that is donated to local food banks.

Financial services technology provider DST Systems, which owns the land, and 360 Architecture, whose stated mission is to create projects that “enhance the well-being of people, organizations, communities and the environment,” envisioned building a series of rain gardens as part of Kansas City’s 10,000 Rain Gardens initiative, designed to proactively involve individuals and businesses in rainwater management. DST staff volunteers store and use rainwater to irrigate gardens that produce fresh vegetables for area food banks.

18Broadway showcases stormwater management techniques for area homeowners. “Anyone can apply these principles on their street,” says Gene Lund, project architect at 360. “You can divert stormwater and get heavy metals off your street before they get to the sewer.” The gardeners conservatively estimate that their five-tiered garden, which ultimately will include nearly 100 raised beds, will produce 2 to 4 tons of vegetables each growing season.

rain garden raised beds 

18Broadway’s five garden tiers, including nearly 100 raised beds, produce tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, kale, gourds, pumpkins, onions and more for area food banks. The site is expected to produce 2 to 4 tons of vegetables each growing season.  

 rain garden permeable pavers 

A prototype wind turbine towers above the garden’s permeable pavers and raised garden beds, providing power to pedestrian lights. 

rain garden bioswales 

Street-level bioswales gulp water running down city streets before it heads to sewers. Planted with native plants and grasses, especially those resistant to damage from heavy metals and salt, the bioswales are modeled after a forest floor. Photo Courtesy 360 Architecture  

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