UO students hatch plans for Gateway ecodistrict
By Christina Williams
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
From highly visual renderings like this one showing a walkable neighborhood with lots of green space to complex street plans, University of Oregon students churned out a multitude of ideas for the Gateway ecodistrict. Click through the gallery to see samples of their work.
Five teams of students from the University of Oregon last week presented the results of a semester's worth of work to the team behind the Gateway ecodistrict effort, showing of concepts for a greener, more connected neighborhood.
Gateway, located in east Portland near the intersection of Interstate 84 and I-205, is one of five ecodistrict neighborhoods being nurtured by the Portland Sustainability Institute's pilot ecodistrict project. Ecodistricts are neighborhoods that develop a comprehensive management strategy for attributes such as energy, water, waste, recycling, green infrastructure and mobility.
Nico Larco, associate professor of architecture at the University of Oregon, worked with the institute to develop an opportunity for an interdisciplinary team of students to look at ecodistricts from an urban design perspective.
The project became the topic of a studio class taught by Larco and Kaarin Knudson, a project manager with Eugene-based Rowell Brokaw Architects and an adjunct professor at UO. The class of 17 split into five student teams with expertise including architecture, landscape architecture and urban planning.
Students started the semester meeting with the ecodistrict's steering committee and experts on the area from SERA Architects and the Portland Development Commission.
"We heard a whole lot of 'We don't want to be the Pearl,'" Larco said.
Larco said the site is challenging — a fragmented network of streets, a heavy emphasis on car-dependent retail development, a lack of green space were just a few of Gateway's issues — but that the challenge energized the students.
"They did a fantastic job of taking what we told them and making it into something," said Colleen Gifford, president of ABC Sustainable Solutions and chairwoman of the Gateway Eco District official steering committee. "I could take something from each presentation and see a beautiful Gateway."
Student work focused on planning for better street connectivity and more support for pedestrian and bike travel. The plans incorporated stormwater treatment ideas into green space, for example one called for a park pond to double as a stormwater collector for the neighborhood. And to create an identity for the neighborhood, one called for an international marketplace that would leverage Gateway's diversity — some 77 different languages are spoken on its streets — to create a central gathering place.
Gifford said she was inspired by the designs and renderings and will be presenting some of the ideas to Mayor Sam Adams in an upcoming meeting about the ecodistrict's progress.
"I hope the city will pay attention to what we're saying and what we're seeing," Gifford said.
Knudson will be leading a presentation of the student's work at this year's EcoDistrict Summit in October, an event put on by the Portland Sustainability Institute.
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