Ecodistrict concept spreads nationwide

The ecodistrict concept is spreading across North America and cities in a pilot program set up by the Portland Sustainability Institute are sharing information.

The ecodistrict concept is spreading across North America and cities in a pilot program set up by the Portland Sustainability Institute are sharing information. 

“These things really take leaders. There’s a business case, but you really need somebody that’s going to champion it,” said Berry.

So PoSI’s latest mission is teaming up with those community leaders and listening to them about the challenges they face and ideas they hatch as they look to build their own ecodistricts.

In May, PoSI invited guests from 10 cities with active neighborhood-scale projects to come to Portland and explore ecodistricts, using workshops and a fresh outlook from peers to spark innovation.

“It was a very positive event. Each of the cities is struggling with different things. Many of them are struggling with similar issues,” said Rob Bennett, executive director of PoSI.

Those issues range from technical challenges to practical tasks like creating district utilities, to community engagement issues, difficulties structuring partnerships and obstacles to funding, among others.

Following the institute’s success, PoSI launched a North American pilot project involving those 10 cities, plus five others. The pilot is a partnership with CH2MHill with funding from the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, a professional network of municipal sustainability professionals. The project’s mission is to develop a strategy to begin implementing ecodistricts in each city, as well as identify best practices and funding strategies for ecodistricts generally.

The cities participating in the pilot include Boston; New York; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Minneapolis; Cleveland; Austin; Charlotte, N.C.; Memphis; Denver; Guadalajara, Mexico; Vancouver, British Columbia; Mountain View, Calif.; Bloomington, Ind.; and, of course, Portland.

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