Ecodistrict concept spreads nationwide
By Lee van der Voo
The ecodistrict concept is spreading across North America and cities in a pilot program set up by the Portland Sustainability Institute are sharing information.
“They are providing a tremendous amount of intelligence about what they need to make ecodistricts effective,” Bennett said.
PoSI is raising money to provide support to participating cities, and will look to national and regional foundations, along with potential private partners, to fund each city’s ecodistrict projects.
A firmer foundation
The effort comes as PoSI itself continues to lay down a firmer foundation.
Founded by Mayor Sam Adams and initially seeded with grant money from the city, it was 75 percent dependent on public contracts in its first year, 2009.
Now, Bennett said, PoSI has reduced that dependence on public contracts to 20 percent, garnering the rest of its $750,000 budget from foundations and earned income from programs, including the institute’s annual summit and on-location trainings.
Ultimately, Bennett says, PoSI’s aim is to focus on ecodistricts and on building the marketplace for district-scale sustainable development. Along the way, it intends to make Portland and area businesses thought-leaders for the industry.
Business leaders agree the idea holds promise for Portland-area companies.
If Portland can take a leadership position on ecodistricts and local firms can develop related expertise, “there is tremendous opportunity to create jobs here in the region and export that knowledge overseas,” said Mark Edlen, CEO of Gerding Edlen.
Gerding Edlen is focused on projects beyond Portland and has had inquiries from Asian governments about developing ecodistrict concepts in Asian communities.
Edlen points to the rapid and massive migrations to cities that is taking place in places like China, India and Africa as an opportunity to apply ecodistrict thinking.
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