Currently there are five official eco-district projects in Portland: the Lloyd District, Foster Green, Gateway, South of Market and South Waterfront. The Hawthorne business district and its associated neighborhoods are also jumping into the fray. Michele Machado, the volunteer coordinator for the Hawthorne eco-district, says the effort started about six months ago when the Hawthorne Boulevard Business Association expressed interest in how to take sustainability to the next step. The association received a $6,000 grant from Venture Portland to develop a planning framework. Machado hopes to come up with three to five projects that the association and five nearby neighborhood associations can agree upon in early June and then the projects will be prioritized and launched over the next few years. She hopes to have a formal eco-district process in place early next year.
Beaverton and Hillsboro are working with the Portland Sustainability Institute on their own eco-districts. So far, no Oregon projects are under way outside of the Portland metro area.
Naomi Cole, Portland Sustainability Institute’s eco-districts program director, says the districts follow a five-step template. First the district organizational structure is set, followed by an assessment of needs, project feasibility studies, project implementation and ongoing district monitoring. With the exception of the Lloyd District, the other four districts are in the feasibility study stage. Hawthorne is beginning the assessment stage.
Ideally, says Heinicke, an eco-district will be an ongoing, constantly evolving place where solving one issue leads to another issue needing resolution. “This is probably not something that’s going to be built out and just be done.”
The Lloyd District is home to major business players and eco-district supporters such as the Oregon Convention Center, PacifiCorp, the Lloyd Center Mall, the Portland Trail Blazers and the Rose Quarter sports and entertainment arenas, and major commercial real estate players such as Langley Investment Properties. Heinicke says the strong business community involvement means proposals will be carefully scrutinized to ensure they make good business sense. For example, the district will adopt guidelines for building remodels that call for energy-efficient measures that will save businesses money, not measures that are green at the expense of the bottom line.
“It has to be the right thing to do and it has to make financial sense,” Heinicke says. “These are the lenses through which we evaluate what we do and don’t do.”