Portland ecodistricts move ahead under city guidance

After refining the ecodistrict concept through a five-neighborhood pilot project, the Portland Sustainability Institute has turned over management of the city's ecodistricts over to the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.

After refining the ecodistrict concept through a five-neighborhood pilot project, the Portland Sustainability Institute has turned over management of the city's ecodistricts over to the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. 

Portland's five designated ecodistricts are looking ahead to the new year with resolutions and priorities, operating under the leadership of the city of Portland's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.

A resolution passed by Portland City Council in late October effectively passed the baton for the care and feeding of the ecodistricts from the Portland Sustainability Institute — known as POSI — the nonprofit established by Mayor Sam Adams in 2009, back to the city.

"With the resolution, POSI is becoming less active in managing the five pilot neighborhoods and evolving into more of a technical resource," said Rob Bennett, POSI's executive director. "This was always intended as a pilot project."

The five ecodistricts — Gateway, Lents (known as Foster Green), South Waterfront, Lloyd District and the South-of-Market/Portland State University neighborhood — were first announced in 2010 and have been working with POSI on sustainable development at a neighborhood scale. The definition of an ecodistrict is essentially a neighborhood working together on things like waste management, transportation, renewable energy, energy efficiency and even district heating and cooling toward overall better sustainability.

Alisa Kane, green building and development manager for the city, said her department is working to determine the best roll for the city to play with the ecodistricts.

"It's a work in progress," Kane said. "We're building new relationships and figuring out how we can help them."

Kane provided an update on each ecodistrict:

• The "Growing Gateway" ecodistrict is one of two ecodistricts continuing to work with POSI on a detailed 'business plan' for its activities. That work is funded by the Portland Development Commission. The district is looking at ways to deploy energy efficiency programs at a community scale and also working on plans for a bike facility at the Gateway Transit Center. Gateway worked with University of Oregon students earlier this year on urban design ideas.

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