Portland's ecodistrict effort shows signs of progress
By Lee van der Voo, Sustainable Business Oregon
Sustainable Business Oregon
The concept of ecodistricts is gaining ground — around the world and in Portland.
The Portland Sustainability Institute’s second annual summit on ecodistricts ramped up Wednesday, luring more than 450 attendees from around the globe as the ecodistricts push at PoSI begins showing the first returns on city investment.
PoSI’s ecodistricts concept centers on combining green building ideas with planning and civic engagement to achieve broad sustainability goals.
Since Mayor Sam Adams founded PoSI in 2009, the institute has worked to leverage Portland’s reputation as an urban planning Mecca to spark innovation around ecodistricts in five pilot neighborhoods. At its heart, it is both an environmental and economic concept.
“I think it’s easy to walk around Portland and see 40 years of urban innovation,” said Rob Bennett, executive director of PoSI, pointing to South Waterfront, the brewery blocks, and business districts like Alberta and Mississippi streets. “Those are in essence ecodistricts, they’re early integration neighborhood strategies.”
What’s different now, he said, is, “for the first time we’re being really explicit about the kinds of performance that we're seeking.”
Ecodistricts are intended to broaden Portland’s brand as a planning innovator; export planning, engineering and architectural skills from local firms worldwide; and lure investment capital from corporations and other partners looking to try neighborhood and district scale developments.
The Portland City Council seeded PoSI with $175,000 in 2009. Ecodistricts are the institute's primary focus, along with fostering development of the Oregon Sustainability Center and leading the Portland Metro Climate Prosperity project, which aims to curb emissions.
Lee van der Voo, lvdvoo*at*gmail.com, is a freelance writer for Sustainable Business Oregon.
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