Seattle’s Emerging EcoDistrict: Sustainability at a Neighborhood Scale

Before-and-after-shot-of-a-Pollinator-Pathway-on-Columbia-Street-in-Madrona

Photo Credit Credit: Bergmann/Pollinator Pathway

The Capitol Hill EcoDistrict project is a new neighborhood initiative led by Capitol Hill Housing, which may help to address environmental and social concerns in one of Seattle’s most densely populated neighborhoods. A primary goal of the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict project is to work in partnership with local organizations to promote sustainability, water purity, habitat, energy, housing, transportation, and equity of its constituents. This project is partnering with the Seattle 2030 District – an organization working to renovate existing urban infrastructure – to reduce carbon emissions 50% by 2030.

Recently, the EcoDistrict project partnered with Capitol Hill Housing and Seattle City Light to start the first community solar project in Washington State. Participants in this program can “prescribe” to receive the benefits of solar via the systems built and maintained by Seattle City Light on the rooftop of the new Capitol Hill Housing, 12th Avenue Arts building. The 12th Avenue Arts building­ houses 88 new apartments for low-income families, artist spaces, two theaters, various community organizations, and street level retail spaces.

Building owners in this Seattle EcoDistrict neighborhood are also taking the opportunity to increase building efficiency while encouraging conservation by tenants and residents. Innovative projects are now encouraged to challenge the City of Seattle’s Land Use Code through a process of design review. As an example, The Bullitt Center, a Living Building Challenge project, set a landmark precedent for the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict 2030 District Challenge by helping to launch the City of Seattle’s Living Building Pilot Program.

The EcoDistrict model also addresses urban habitat fragmentation and loss in tree canopy and open space. The Pollinator Pathway Program, founded by Sarah Bergmann, is implementing a mile-long, 12-foot wide corridor of native plants that is networking and strengthening isolated green spaces to provide connected habitat for native pollinators such as native bees and butterflies in Seattle. Furthermore, through a comprehensive stewardship plan, this program has developed a design for a Pollinator Pathway running through the heart of the Capital Hill EcoDistrict that will connect public parks, elementary schools, and Seattle University

What EcoDistricts can do is help create diverse authentic places that speak to a more sustainable urban fabric. And in this light, it is essential that interdisciplinary teams and partnerships work together to effectively plan, design, and re-build healthy affordable communities, thus creating district-scale sustainability within our city.

 

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