Gardeners Tending Plot on Top of Downtown Parking Garage

By Alan Van Zandt |

Published 06/03 2014 10:43PM

Updated 06/04 2014 01:32AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Some call downtown St. Joseph's parking garage at 9th and Felix St. an eyesore.

The upper deck of the lot has been closed for more than a decade. The cost to raze the structure is more than the expense to renovate it. However, there's no money for that either.

"The investment it would take to get that structure going again just hasn't been available," said Andy Clements, assistant director of the Public Works Department for the City of St. Joseph.

Some enterprising St. Joseph residents have seen the space and are putting it to use.

"Our imaginations have run wild a little bit," said Nicholas Brothers. "We imagine this entire rooftop green, full of life, with breathing plants."

To accomplish that feat, they have started the Stone Soup Garden.

"We've been inspired from some efforts from friends in other communities kind of reclaiming public space for greenery, for life, for community," Brothers said.

A group of about 8-10 people take turns planting, watering and maintaining the three small plots of garden that has so far been created.

The name of the garden comes from an old proverb.

"Travelers come into a village and say, "We don't have any food, can you please feed us?'" said Cory Stephens, another one of the urban gardeners. "The villagers are real stingy with their food and say we can't feed you. So they take their little pot down to the river and fill it with water and drop a stone in it and say we have this stone soup. It's not finished yet, we need some garnish. One person brings carrots. Another brings garlic and another person brings some broth. It builds and builds until you have an actual stew."

The group is already thinking of expanding their project.

"More beds, more plants, more people, more community involvement across the city," Brothers said.

Officials with the City of St. Joseph weren't aware of the garden until we started working on this story. After learning about what was happening on the upper deck of the parking lot, they were supportive.

"I was surprised and thought it was great," Clements said. "It's nice to see a bit of urban gardening in downtown. It's an area for good, nutritious food source at the same time and get some community involvement. There's no negative."

The group is looking for additional volunteers who can give of their time or donate supplies.

To learn more about the garden, click here.

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