8 Cities, 8 Projects, and the New Face of American City - EcoDistricts

Leaders Gather to Revitalize Cities from the Neighborhood Up

PORTLAND, Ore., May 28, 2013 – Today, 47 city and neighborhood development leaders from eight select U.S. cities will gather in Portland for the EcoDistricts Incubator, a three-day intensive workshop designed to accelerate the speed at which North American cities are revitalized from the neighborhood up.

EcoDistricts (formerly known as the Portland Sustainability Institute) is hosting delegates from cities that have prioritized revitalizing neighborhoods all at once (vs. doing it just building by building). In 2013, those cites are: Bend (OR), Burlington (VT), Cambridge (MA), Charleston (SC), Denver, Oakland, Orlando and San Diego. These cities are part of a growing movement of cities that are taking on green neighborhood revitalization projects in an effort to create jobs, save resources, lower carbon emissions and include at-risk communities that are all too often left out of the neighborhood sustainability and revitalization movement. Thus far, the EcoDistricts Incubator and Summit have served more than 2,000 of the world’s leading urban planners, citymakers, policymakers and community leaders over the last four years in an effort to change the face of cities – for the better.

The 2013 Incubator includes a mix of plenary presentations by leading North American practitioners and facilitated work sessions designed to help each city develop an EcoDistricts roadmap. The Incubator is designed around the pioneering EcoDistricts Framework, which emphasizes the integration of smart infrastructure, green buildings and community engagement. The Framework provides a practical template to build support, drive projects and measure results through four action areas: 1) District Organization: organizational formation, building alliances, and setting goals; 2) District Assessment: creating a performance based neighborhood sustainability roadmap that addresses the eight EcoDistrict performance areas; 3) Project Development: launching catalytic district-scale sustainability projects, and 4) District Management: developing district governance to guide long-term project implementation.

The Growing EcoDistricts Movement

EcoDistricts are a new model of public-private partnership that emphasizes innovation and deployment of district-scale best practices to create the neighborhoods of the future - resilient, vibrant, resource efficient and just. Given that,the majority of people now live in cities for the first time (a change that happened in 2008) how we live in cities is one of the great challenges of our time. Urban leaders of all stripes – from mayors to community activists – see EcoDistricts as the key to solving many of their challenges, and they are launching transformative projects. These projects include comprehensive management strategies for energy, water, waste, recycling, green infrastructure and mobility, not to mention projects for community engagement.

EcoDistricts can be established within brownfield redevelopment areas, campuses or existing neighborhoods.

For example, the City of Austin, TX is applying the EcoDistricts Framework to benchmark and measure an eight-acre downtown mixed-use development project. The city is using the Framework to coordinate activity among major property developers and city agencies to measure neighborhood sustainability performance in an area that will include the repurposed and iconic Seaholm Power Plant, affordable and market-rate housing, retail, a hotel, a new central library, transit and new green space.

“We’re applying the EcoDistrict Framework to guide decisions in a complex, rapidly-evolving neighborhood. Developers are excited about the EcoDistrict as a way to differentiate their product and attract and engage residents,” said Lucia Athens, Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Austin.

The concept of EcoDistricts was pioneered in Portland, and interest is growing globally. Throughout North America and around the world, there are a growing number of EcoDistrict projects planned or underway. Last year, EcoDistricts welcomed over 500 innovators to the International EcoDistricts Summit to present on and study best practices.

8 Cities, 8 Projects

The EcoDistricts Incubator – funded by a generous grant from the Blackstone Ranch Institute – is designed to help cities find new ways to build green neighborhoods. The 2013 Incubator cities include these projects:

Bend

Bend’s Sustainable Neighborhood Initiative holds transformational potential for the region’s expected growth. At the heart of their proposed EcoDistrict is a major couplet connecting the established downtown and historic residential neighborhoods to the former industrial lands. Leaders are coming to the Incubator to meet other leaders and to develop a plan for moving forward.

Burlington

Known as the Railyard Enterprise Project, this lakeside brownfield neighborhood is poised to create a new urban street grid integrating multi-use development, energy-efficient affordable housing, a myriad of transportation alternatives and additional public access to Lake Champlain.

Cambridge

Over the past 30 years, Kendall Square has catapulted into a major commercial, innovation and transportation hub. Anchored by prominent technology, research and academic institutions, Kendall Square is looking to push the envelope for a more sustainable community with a new EcoDistrict that will be globally significant for the innovation economy.

Charleston

This Charleston EcoDistrict pilot is transitioning from its heavy commercial and industrial roots to modern workplaces, retail, restaurants and dense housing. With the City of Charleston looking for innovative land use planning and new community engagement strategies, this pilot is aiming to change the neighborhood revitalization process in Charleston.

Denver

Home to low-income residents, a power plant, a dead stretch of the South Platte River, the Sports Authority Field and stadium-related surface parking lots, the Sun Valley neighborhood has suffered from isolation, neglect and a lack of investment. Despite these challenges, Sun Valley contains enormous potential with strong community amenities to build upon - an elementary school, recreation center, hundreds of miles of regional trails, a new library, and a new light rail station.

Oakland

The City of Oakland is leading a collaborative effort to integrate affordable housing, public transit, and neighborhood revitalization efforts in a severely economically disadvantaged transit corridor – the International Boulevard Corridor. Spanning over seven miles, this corridor collaborative seeks to ensure equitable benefits from expected growth and development in the Bay Area.

Orlando

The Central Downtown Orlando EcoDistrict is metro Orlando’s cultural, commercial and residential center, and it is currently diversifying from a financial, legal and government hub to high-tech businesses and residential development. The City is preparing to complete a new downtown strategic plan positioning this EcoDistrict to redefine Orlando’s redevelopment.

San Diego

North Park Main Street carries a strong legacy of neighborhood-based leadership from its early adoption of the Sustainable Main Street program to the recent North Park EcoDistrict Initiative. Today, North Park Main Street, San Diego Gas and Electric and San Diego Green Building Council are working together to further the district’s goal for a vibrant, integrated neighborhood.

EcoDistricts: Looking Ahead

This year, EcoDistricts is launching Target Cities, a two-year immersion program for leading cities that wish to integrate our pioneering EcoDistricts Framework into neighborhood development and revitalization projects. In 2013-14 we’ll also release our EcoDistrict Framework v.2, supported by a range of guidance documents to better support market transformation and innovation. Finally, our popular EcoDistricts Summit, the world’s premier conference dedicated to the global movement to promote sustainable neighborhood development, will be held in Boston for the first time (November 12-14).

About EcoDistricts

Our vision is to inspire every city to remake itself from the neighborhood up. We bring together 3 city builders and entrepreneurs, policymakers and innovators to create vibrant neighborhoods and smart cities. EcoDistricts is funded in part by generous support from the Kresge Foundation, Surdna Foundation, Bullitt Foundation, Blackstone Ranch Institute, Collins Foundation, Williams Foundation and others. More at ecodistricts.org