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Portland State announces neighborhood partners for concentrated sustainability work
Author: Christina Williams
Posted: June 9, 2014

Portland State University announced today it will work with three Portland communities to deploy students and faculty to make significant progress on sustainability goals through a multi-year partnership. 

The Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative (SNI), launched in 2013 by the PSU Institute for Sustainable Solutions, will build long-term community-university partnerships to create learning opportunities that advance neighborhood sustainability goals. The SNI will develop collaborative work plans with the Foster Green EcoDistrict in Southeast Portland; the Lloyd EcoDistrict in Portland’s Lloyd District; and PSU’s own surrounding neighborhood in the SoMa EcoDistrict south of downtown Portland’s Market Street. 

“With these relationships, the Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative is taking two decades of experience with community-based learning at Portland State and concentrating it intentionally to improve the quality of life in local neighborhoods,” said PSU President Wim Wiewel. “This is the role that PSU—and every urban serving university in the country—should be playing. ” 

Through the Initiative, the Institute for Sustainable Solutions will match classes, researchers, and interns with neighborhood partners to work on a range of sustainability-related issues, such as district-scale waste reduction, neighborhood livability, energy efficiency, and transportation alternatives. In recent years, PSU has been putting classes to work around Portland on sustainability-related topics—Freshmen last year studied pedestrian and bike transportation in the Gateway neighborhood and Juniors and Seniors planned an EcoSwap in the Lloyd District—but the launch of these partnerships through the Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative focuses that work while providing the platform for building a continuum of rich, real-world learning experiences for students. 

“The Foster Green EcoDistrict is a bootstrapped coalition with more project ideas than capacity,” said Kate Carone, co-chair of the Foster Green EcoDistrict steering committee. “We look forward to seeing what we can accomplish working with a variety of disciplines at PSU to grow resilience of the Foster area community.”

PSU will work with Foster Green to develop neighborhood-scale sustainability strategies that can be applied in other largely residential ecodistricts. 

In addition PSU will work with two largely commercial neighborhoods, the Lloyd and SoMa EcoDistricts, both designated by the city of Portland as pilot ecodistricts.

“We make no secret of our intention to be the most sustainable business district in the U.S.,” said Sarah Heinicke, Lloyd EcoDistrict executive director. “We’ve been working with Portland State for several years and look forward to continuing and deepening the partnership and continuing to push the limits of what can be accomplished with sustainability at a district scale.” 

"The Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative will bring significant new resources to SoMa and formalizes the collaboration between Portland State, property owners and neighborhood residents and businesses to implement projects that create a sustainable neighborhood,” said Bob Naito, principal of Naito Development and co-chair of the SoMa EcoDistrict Steering Committee. 

The Institute for Sustainable Solutions is working with each SNI partner to arrange a detailed work plan and framework for the relationship and will host a faculty workshop this month to discuss curriculum opportunities in the partner communities.