In the last few years many cities have adopted Climate Action Plans, set sustainability goals and committed to infill development, green infrastructure and more transportation choices. But plans and policies are meaningless gestures unless they are implemented and implementation of these projects requires more than government action; it requires engagement by businesses, nonprofit organizations and active citizens.
The Urban Sustainability Accelerator (USA) was conceived in 2012 by three professors in the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning. Connie Ozawa, Jennifer Dill and Ethan Seltzer designed the project to help smaller and mid-sized urban areas in the United States implement sustainability projects. The project is designed to allow the participating cities to benefit from the Portland region’s experience and from each other.
The project is directed by Robert Liberty, former Metro Councilor and leader in urban and regional planning, and receives financial support from the Toulan School, Summit Foundation and the Institute for Sustainable Solutions.
After a nation-wide search, eight communities around the country have been selected to participate in a year-long effort to support implementation of urban redevelopment and related sustainability projects in this inaugural cohort of cities: Waco and El Paso, Texas; Wichita, Kansas; Portland, Maine; Louisville, Kentucky; and Sacramento County, Elk Grove and Rancho Cordova, California.
Chris McGowan, director of urban development at the Greater Waco Chamber said, “This is not only an opportunity to take advantage of expertise at PSU but also a great chance to learn from some outstanding peer leaders in our partner cities.”
The sentiment was echoed by other participants. "We are so pleased to have been selected for the Urban Sustainability Accelerator program, which will help us enhance walkability and connectivity in our downtown. The opportunity to learn from, and network with, these content experts throughout the next year will be invaluable to Wichita," said Wichita City Councilors Janet Miller and Lavonta Williams.
The program will bring diverse teams from participating cities to Portland in July for four days where they will consult with experts in sustainable urban redevelopment, green building and increased transportation choices from the PSU and governments, nonprofit organizations and businesses in the Portland region.
Over the course of the year, the program will provide support to the cities through PSU student and faculty research projects, online consultations, site visits, webinars and aims to create a network of professionals committed to advancing urban sustainability across the country.
For more information visit: www.pdx.edu/sustainability-accelerator.