Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

EcoDistricts Council creates certification program

I have written about the EcoDistricts planning approach here.  

The National Capital Planning Commission used the concept in framing its plan for federal properties in the Southwest District of DC, and it was part of the initial discussions for the redevelopment of the deaccessioned Walter Reed campus and other areas of DC (Downtown, the University of District of Columbia, although I no longer seem to come across mention of this concept in DC planning circles. These days the buzzword is resiliency.

Below is a reprint of a press release (with some reformatting) from the EcoDistricts Council.  I am always a big fan of case studies of best practice with the aim of mining them for new insights and approaches.  Here are 10.

For more information on EcoDistricts Certified, the Ecodistricts Council is offering a webinar on Monday August 8th at 10am PST.


Groundbreaking Standard for Community Development Launches in 10 Cities
EcoDistricts Certified Requires Commitment to Equity, Sustainability

PORTLAND, Ore. – Eleven communities in 10 cities across North America today committed to a landmark new standard for community development that makes equity and sustainability fundamental requirements. By embracing the new standard – EcoDistricts Certified – neighborhoods from Seattle to Boston to Toronto will become the first certified EcoDistricts in the world.

EcoDistricts Certified is a cutting-edge, holistic, and rigorous framework for organizing and achieving important public policy, sustainability, and investment goals.  The result of seven years of research and industry engagement, EcoDistricts Certified projects

1) commit to equity, resilience and climate protection at the heart of every decision;
2) form collaborative governance that reflects community stakeholders;
3) create an implementation roadmap to guide projects and programs; and
4) track and measure impact over time. Each step is submitted to EcoDistricts’ 3rd-party verifiers to ensure transparency and accountability.

Here is the first set of projects committed to EcoDistricts Certified:

Seaholm (Austin, Texas) is a 90-acre brownfield site in the heart of Austin’s vibrant downtown business district. Following the restoration of the iconic Seaholm power plant, the district is being redeveloped into a cultural hub that prioritizes district infrastructure, mobility options, green buildings, adaptive reuse of historic assets, habitat restoration, and local healthy food.

ATL Airport (Atlanta) is the busiest airport in the world and the largest employment hub in the state, with more than 65,000 jobs. The airport is committing to reduce waste, energy use, water use and carbon emissions on the 4,750 acre site and better align ATL’s Sustainable Management Plan with airport businesses and the surrounding community.

TNT Eco Innovation District (Boston) spans 13 blocks of Codman Square, an historic area in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston that boasts a long history as one of the City’s major civic centers, but has historically been underserved and economically disadvantaged. The initiative marries transit-oriented green development, renewable energy, water conservation, sustainable food systems, and climate preparedness and includes projects such as retrofitting at least 50% of existing housing with new insulation, helping local businesses save money through energy efficiency programs, building new high-efficiency transit-oriented developments, and exploring local power generation models like community-shared solar.

RiNo Art District (Denver) is a 1-square-mile emerging former industrial area just north of downtown Denver that has seen the creative sector galvanize significant adaptive reuse and development projects. Through a unique operating model that includes a non-profit, a Business Improvement District and a General Improvement District, artists, developers, businesses and residents collectively invest in their neighborhood to retain the neighborhood’s character while driving innovation, inventive thinking, and collaborative solutions to the complex challenges brought on by rapid change.

Sun Valley EcoDistrict (Denver) will lead the redevelopment of Sun Valley, the lowest income neighborhood in Denver. The project recently received a $30 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Millvale EcoDistrict (Pittsburgh) is a partnership between community organizations to drive new green infrastructure, water conservation, food, energy, transportation, equity, and economic strategies in the remaking of this classic borough and mill town. The team received two 2017 awards from the American Planning Association (APA) for their EcoDistrict strategy.

Lloyd EcoDistrict (Portland) launched the country’s first EcoDistrict in 2010 to drive prosperity, environmental quality, social welfare and collaboration between businesses, residents and public agencies in Portland’s dense inner eastside. The initiative includes unique partnerships between utilities, city agencies, businesses, building owners, the elderly community and other stakeholders, and ambitious targets such as a 60% reduction in energy demand, 100% access to car and bike-sharing programs, and 93% total waste generation reduction.

Capitol Hill EcoDistrict (Seattle) is a neighborhood-based sustainability initiative serving the most densely populated urban village in the Pacific Northwest. With an estimated 15,000 diverse households including nearly 1,300 low-income ones, work includes incorporating community priorities into development agreements, installing a first-of-its kind community solar array atop an affordable housing property, creating the nation’s first Renters’ Commission, piloting a pedestrian street closure series, piloting a low-cost transit pass program, and working with small businesses to promote resource conservation and reduce waste.

High Falls EcoDistrict (Rochester) is a 322-acre redevelopment project surrounding a 96-foot waterfall in the heart of downtown Rochester, and is a visible representation of Rochester’s commitment to being a green leader among mid-sized cities. The project will help grow the city and region sustainably, prepare for the impact of climate change and breathe new life into existing neighborhoods through innovation and green jobs – all while celebrating the neighborhood’s iconic waterfall as its own clean energy asset.

City Yards (Santa Monica), which houses Public Works operations, is considered an industrial eyesore to locals, and residents refer to it as one point in a “toxic triangle” along with the I-10 freeway and the former landfill. The City Yards Project and the EcoDistricts Protocol are together catalysts for the regeneration of Santa Monica’s eastern edge and the underserved Pico Neighborhood.

East Harbour (Toronto) is the largest commercial project currently planned in Canada. Located on a 60-acre site directly east of Toronto’s downtown core, once completed it will hold a 13-million square foot mix of office, retail and institutional developments, employ more than 50,000 workers, and house a new major multi-modal transit hub with significant local and regional connections. East Harbour will be a development catalyst for critical infrastructure projects in and around the area, and will transform a previously inaccessible site into a world-class hub for art, commerce, transit, and healthy living.

More details on these projects are available at: district-registry/

A New Standard, Just in Time

EcoDistricts Certified arrives at a time of unprecedented reinvestment in cities and when communities everywhere face an increasing number of interwoven challenges:
  • More than 75 million people are moving to cities every year in one of the world’s largest building booms, and experts expect cities around the globe will invest $41 trillion to upgrade infrastructure over the next 20 years.
  • 70 percent of cities in the U.S. already are dealing with the effects of climate change and nearly all are at risk, requiring cities to rethink the deployment of infrastructure, emergency services and neighborhood social networks.
  • Inequality in the U.S. has risen precipitously over the past 35 years, with the Great Recession exacerbating an already significant income gap that is contributing to massive pockets of disinvestment and gentrification.
  • American infrastructure is crumbling, warranting a grade of D+ from the American Society of Civil Engineers.
  • Low income communities and communities of color are suffering disproportionate public health impacts, including a two- to three-times higher rate of asthma in some neighborhoods and significantly higher rates of obesity.
  • Pollution, development and population growth are placing severe stress on urban water supplies, and large cities are facing a rising demand for water in a time of scarcity and threats to the quality of the water supply.
“We created EcoDistricts Certified to transform the market. The planet and our most vulnerable can’t wait for another generation,” said Rob Bennett, CEO, EcoDistricts. “We’re spending billions of dollars in cities today and we need to get it right. This new standard is where an upfront investment in following a rigorous development framework yields exponential returns: Leaders get organized, projects happen faster, opportunities grow, people stay where they live, and others move there.”

EcoDistricts Accredited Professional

EcoDistricts is also announcing the first class of EcoDistricts Accredited Professionals (AP), the new credential demonstrating a commitment to equity and sustainability in neighborhoods, as well as expertise in the EcoDistricts standard.

“The EcoDistricts AP is the signature credential to show that you believe in processes that promotes equity, sustainability, and resilience at the district scale,” said Dominique Hargreaves, Executive Director of the US Green Building Council (L.A.) and an EcoDistricts Accredited Professional. “I enjoy studying rating systems and this is not a rating system – it is a paradigm shift that will produce positive impacts for new and existing communities.”

EcoDistricts Summit
On October 10-11, urban and community development leaders from around the world will meet in Atlanta at the annual EcoDistricts Summit to shape the future of neighborhoods. More than just a conference, the EcoDistricts Summit is a dynamic participatory event that brings together leading city-builders to design real-time solutions to complex neighborhood challenges. It provides a platform to build lasting relationships and learn about the latest trends, best practices, and projects influencing the market, including the first generation of EcoDistricts Certified neighborhoods.

About EcoDistricts

EcoDistricts is a nonprofit organization that advances a new standard for community development. Through its programs and certification standard, EcoDistricts helps build equitable, sustainable, and resilient neighborhoods for all.

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