At the intersection of buildings, infrastructure and people, neighborhoods shape the social and cultural landscape in which we live, work, learn and play.
EcoDistricts are the right scale - small enough to innovate quickly and large enough to have a meaningful impact. EcoDistricts are neighborhoods committed to accelerating sustainability that integrate building and infrastructure projects with community and individual action.
EcoDistricts (formerly Portland Sustainability Institute, PoSI) in partnership with the City of Portland, launched the EcoDistricts initiative, a comprehensive enabling strategy to accelerate neighborhood-scale sustainability that integrates building and infrastructure projects with community and individual action. An EcoDistrict is a neighborhood or district with a broad commitment to accelerate neighborhood-scale sustainability where members commit to achieving ambitious performance goals, guide district investment and community action, and track their results over time. The five pilot EcoDistricts in Portland include Lents, Gateway, South Waterfront, Lloyd District, and South of Market
PSU involvement in EcoDistricts took root as the University began work on the University District Framework Plan, a long-term strategic plan for the University District completed in June 2010. An accompanying analysis identified key EcoDistrict opportunities to be considered in the Framework Plan as well as PSU’s Climate Action Plan, completed in May 2010 with sustainability goals related to economic development, mobility, open space, preservation, energy and water conservation, waste management, materials use and goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040. Central to EcoDistrict development within these guiding plans is a focus on increasing engagement and collaboration with surrounding property owners, residents, workers, business owners, and community partners. These strategies recognize the vital importance of cultivating partnerships across campus and the community to ensure the University meets its climate and sustainability goals.
Between 2009 and 2011, PSU led multiple engagement processes as part of various curricula initiatives. PSU’s Center for Academic Excellence held a series of community engagement breakfasts on EcoDistricts, with invitations extended to residents and businesses in the area. One of which was a Civic Ecology workshop where participants were asked to brainstorm ways to make better use of community resources in the district and identify systems for energy, waste, water, food production and local economies.
Research & Education
Creating sustainable urban communities is a key focus area of PSU’s sustainability research. EcoDistrict pilots offer ideal research opportunities to study ecological and socioeconomic conditions of place, innovative strategies to maximize resource efficiency, and community participation in neighborhood action. Curricular initiatives at PSU engage students by linking theory with hands on research to examine opportunities to address urban sustainability within the EcoDistrict concept. Several research and curricular activities include:
- Gateway EcoDistrict Pilot Study completed in June 2010
- Making EcoDistricts: Concepts and Methods for Advancing Sustainability in Neighborhoods completed in September 2010
- Student group, Coalition of Students Interested in EcoDistricts (CoSIE), assisted with the Shattuck Hall Ecological Learning Plaza
- “Communities and Resources of an EcoDistrict” senior capstone course
- Numerous undergraduate and graduate courses include EcoDistricts class lectures and coursework
Established as a pilot EcoDistrict in 2010, the South of Market (SoMa) EcoDistrict is an active, highly educated and well-connected urban community - a place where students, educators, residents, workers, and business owners choose to live, work, learn and play. Located in the south downtown area of Portland’s Central Business District, the SoMa EcoDistrict offers unparalleled transit access, a dynamic urban research university, revered greenspaces, and a diverse mix of business, retail and residential uses. The approximately 92 acre area is primarily split between residential and commercial buildings with several city and institutional agencies, as well as a number of businesses particularly to the north and east of the university core. The City of Portland owns a significant portion of open space, including the South Park Blocks and the Halprin Fountain Blocks, which forms an important contiguous green space network along the west and east side of the district.
SoMa EcoDistrict is bordered by Market Street to the north, SW Harbor Way Drive to the east, I-405 to the south and west. Click here for the SoMa EcoDistrict Map.
SoMa EcoDistrict Steering Committee
PSU and thirteen other major property owners formed the SoMa EcoDistrict Steering Committee in April 2011. The group adopted the name SoMa, ratified the EcoDistrict boundaries, and signed a Memorandum of Understanding, outlining their agreement to work together. They created a vision and goals for the EcoDistrict, and made a commitment to implement projects that create a sustainable neighborhood.
To create a sustainable neighborhood for future generations, by working together with our community to define, create, and own a vibrant district with a variety of buildings and parks connected by green streets and public transit that will attract businesses, residents, and visitors to our neighborhood and create a vital and diverse place for people.
- Create a strong governing board
- Encourage a high level of participation by SoMa EcoDistrict Steering Committee and new stakeholders
- Maintain a strong commitment to investigate new ideas in sustainability
- Prioritize projects based on principals of economic, environmental, and social equity
- Identify equitable funding sources managed by SoMa EcoDistrict Board
- Balance PSU growth east of 4th Avenue with commercial and residential uses
SoMa EcoDistrict Roadmap
Adopt-A-Block Pilot Program
SoMa EcoDistrict and the Halprin Landscape Conservancy began a voluntary, Adopt-A-Block pilot program within the Halprin Fountain Blocks. The goal of the program is to further improve and activate the parks as a cultural resource. Pettygrove Park, the first park to be “adopted”, received a boost from a nearby SoMa property owner. An enhanced landscape maintenance plan outlines the use of organic amendments, drought-tolerant turf grass, and high efficiency irrigation, among other practices.
Lovejoy Fountain Park Structure Redesign
A PSU civil engineering senior design capstone project brought together student teams to evaluate the structural integrity and redesign potential of the Charles Moore structure at the west end of Lovejoy Fountain Park. Working with stakeholders from the SoMa EcoDistrict Steering Committee, Portland Parks & Recreation, and the Halprin Landscape Conservancy, student teams conducted 3-D engineering analyses, wind dynamics studies, and provided upgrade recommendations that would address stakeholder needs and concerns while preserving important cultural and historic features of the park.
As an important step to increase energy efficiency in existing buildings within the SoMa EcoDistrict, a group of SoMa property owners are participating in Kilowatt Crackdown, an energy challenge among Portland-area buildings to save energy and reduce operating costs. Owners and tenants receive technical assistance to benchmark energy use, analyze savings opportunities, and identify improvements to building performance. Kilowatt Crackdown is sponsored by the Building Performance Partnership, a partnership between BOMA Oregon, NEEA's BetterBricks, City of Portland, Portland Development Commission, Energy Trust of Oregon and Clark Public Utilities. The contest will run from January 2013 until May 2014.
Halprin Fountain Blocks Improvements & Programming
Reduce, Reuse, Recaffeinate Earth Week Campaign
SoMa partnered with multiple coffee shops in the district to offer a special Earth Day discount for guests who bring in their own coffee mug during the week of April 22nd. The goal of the campaign was to bring awareness to the huge amount of waste from the use of disposable coffee cups and to encourage new habits. PSU Dining, Kobos, Starbucks, Seattle's Best, and Hye's Deli all offered a 50¢ discount on drink purchases (an increase from their typical 10¢ discount!) from April 22nd through April 26th.
Summer Concert Series in Pettygrove Park
In partnership with the 200 Market Associates, SoMa is holding a summer concert series over the lunch hour in Pettygrove Park. Concerts run every Wednesday from 11:30 - 1:30pm starting July 30th and running through September 3rd. Pettygrove Park is located on 2nd and Montgomery, just east of the Cyan apartments. The goal of the concert series is to increase awareness of the Halprin Fountain Blocks and the South of Market EcoDistrict.