Cities convene to learn from Portland on ecodistricts
By Christina Williams
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
The South of Market ecodistrict pilot includes Portland State University.
The Portland Sustainability Institute hosted teams from 10 cities this week for the first ever EcoDistricts Institute, a three-day educational program.
The institute, which wrapped up Thursday, included delegates from Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, San Francisco, Charlotte, N.C., Mountain View, Calif., Austin, Texas, Bellingham, Wash., Vancouver, British Columbia and Guadalajara, Mexico.
Each city has a project underway that fits into the institute's ecodistrict definition — a neighborhood or district that develops a comprehensive management strategy for energy, water, waste, recycling, green infrastructure and mobility.
"What's pretty cool is there are a lot of cities with projects underway," said Rob Bennett, executive director of the institute, which is known as PoSI.
In many cases, the projects don't carry the ecodistrict title. Boston's calling its project an "innovation district," Cleveland's is an "eco-village," and Guadalajara will layer its ecodistrict efforts over efforts to create a "digital creative district."
Bennett said that in partnership with the City of San Francisco and CH2MHill, PoSI is working with a 16 cities to develop a North American ecodistrict pilot program that would work to raise the profile of the ecodistrict concept.
Of the cities that sent teams to the institute sessions this week, several said during the closing session that they intended to return to their home cities and work on better integrating their sustainability efforts with city departments including planning and economic development.
"In Portland, we take that for granted, "Bennett said.
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