Engagement, Visioning, Master Planning, and Making Agreements are found in a process that communities use to make meaningful change in their neighborhood. Community stories are precedents demonstrating the value of integrating nature with development to sustain active and vital community-oriented neighborhoods.
Kashiwa no ha Smart City
Chiba Prefecture, Japan
The Kashiwa no ha Smart City in Chiba Prefecture, Japan, 18 miles north of Tokyo, began in 2005 as an innovative transit-oriented development plan. By 2017, the development was confirmed as the largest LEED® Neighborhood Development (ND) Plan Platinum-certified smart city in the world.
A new type of coordinating entity was established in 2006. The Urban Design Center Kashiwa no ha (UDCK) played a central role as a business, government, and academic coordinating entity working with the community to shape the built environment and manage district-wide sustainability.
Kashiwa no ha was known as an early test bed for effective use of technology and real-time data delivery. Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City connects residents to each other and to the built environment, enabling them to make the best choices for themselves to increase comfort and productivity and for their neighborhood to eliminate pollution, use solar energy, water, and other resources efficiently.
In 2014, the City of Portland’s We Build Green Cities export program, led by ZGF Architects, worked with the UDCK to connect the public realm across the district with a new multi-use civic space around a previously inaccessible regional water detention basin. Nikken Sekkei designed this central place called The Aqua Terrace.
Today, Kashiwa no ha creates a resilient 111-acre/45-hectare district to resolve local social, environmental, and economic issues by balancing the mix of jobs to residents in the neighborhood. To accomplish this, adopted Site and Building Performance Guidelines coordinate how buildings and open spaces work together to sustain active and vital outdoor spaces. By increasing settings for employment, daytime vitality improves community-oriented services important to both workers, residents, and local entrepreneurs.
Mitsui Fudosan: KASHIWA-NO-HA SMART CITY (kashiwanoha-smartcity.com)
ZGF Architects: (Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City – Work – ZGF)
Image: Model of Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City Plan, ZGF /Nikken Sekkei
In 2011, the SW Ecodistrict was led by the National Capital Planning Commission with the U.S. General Services Administration and a consortium of local and federal agencies to develop urban design and sustainability strategies for the Southwest Rectangle in Washington DC—the country’s first government-backed ecodistrict.
ZGF partnered with the Federal and local government in the revitalization of the SW Ecodistrct along the National Mall. The plan conforms with Executive Order EO 13514: Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance, it supports the Monumental Core Framework Plan, and it allows needed building and infrastructure improvements. The resulting comprehensive and forward-looking ecodistrict approach proposes to transform a once disconnected and aging federal precinct into a highly sustainable workplace, cultural destination, and livable neighborhood.
The 110-acre ecodistrict targets net-zero energy as measured in carbon by 2030. This includes the interconnection of high-performance renovated and new buildings, green infrastructure, and vibrant open spaces to pool resources and share byproducts. Water, power, heating and cooling will be shared between buildings across the district. This system anticipates investments to comply with the District’s Stormwater Management Regulation. Compliance with local stormwater rules, contributes to a low cost and net positive water system.
The SW Ecodistrict is home to one of the city’s most highly trafficked metro stations. Planning in the district accounts for transit enhancements to accommodate increased transit use from residents, workers, and visitors in a revitalized mixed-use neighborhood. The resulting neighborhood will use resources more efficiently and contribute to the city’s economic vitality and environmental health.
National Capital Planning Commission
SW Ecodistrict Initiative (ncpc.gov)
Independent Assessment of Highway Covers
In 2020, in response to direction from Oregon Governor Kate Brown and requests from local project stakeholders, the Oregon Transportation Commission directed the Oregon Department of Transportation to retain a consultant team of local and national urban design, engineering, and environmental experts to conduct an independent assessment of the highway cover designs included in the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project. The requests from Metro, Multnomah County, City of Portland, Portland Public Schools and Albina Vision Trust shaped the creation of the independent cover assessment process.
The Independent Highway Cover Assessment (ICA) reviewed the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project objective of covering a section of Interstate 5 in downtown Portland to improve community benefit. The ICA engaged with Portland’s Historic Black Albina Community to establish goals to regenerate the community in the historically disinvested area which had been divided by the freeway in the 1960’s.
The area’s restoration is one part of a larger community effort to re-establish Lower Albina as a center of Black identity and culture in Portland. The highway cover location served as a connection point to restore the neighborhood at a historic crossroads linking community activities, their institutions, churches, community centers, places of work and living. This included consideration of a goal to support the Black community’s desire for self-determination and how they can build, own, and benefit from anticipated improvements on and around the highway covers. This concept included a governing entity, (like the UDCK in Kashiwa no ha above) to organize Black community cultural activities and guide stewardship in the neighborhood to reconfigure the built environment and its economy to improve community wealth, health, and cohesion.
Image: Independent Assessment of Highway Covers, Albina Neighborhood, ODOT/ZGF
In the 1990s a unique public private partnership created a vision to guide the development of the River District – the area encompassing what is now known as the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon. At that time, the land was comprised of vacated rail yards surrounded by aged and underutilized industrial buildings. Today, the Pearl District is considered a successful live-work-play neighborhood, featuring lively streets, parks, art galleries, businesses, a mix of market rate and affordable housing, and a streetcar system linking the Pearl District to downtown and Portland’s east side.
The transformation began when a consortium of unlikely partners including developers, property owners, and City of Portland Bureaus had a shared interest in the district's revitalization. A development agreement was drafted and the consortium worked together to advance district interests. ZGF’s urban design vision incorporated the consortium’s feedback with resident community’s participation. This attracted public interest and established a master plan to organize public and private investment to move the development forward.
The Pearl District was conceived as a cutting edge ‘smart growth’ concept and has become a foundational example of what is today’s ecodistrict movement. The neighborhood illustrates how businesses and residents can share costs and benefits using district systems to capture value from active street design, community-scale energy generation, and low-carbon transportation options through the integration of natural and built environments.
Image: Charles Kelley
Regenerative City Assessment
San Francisco, CA
In 2017, as a part of its city sustainability program, San Francisco City Wide Planning contracted Regensia to facilitate a small pilot study to test regenerative urbanism. San Francisco conducted the Regenerative City Assessment to consider the potential value of using a regenerative urbanism approach for a rapidly developing mixed-use district within the Central SoMa Area Plan.
The pilot study assessed the performance of a regenerative approach against the traditional environmental sustainability proposals already developed in the Draft Central SoMa Area Plan. A working group, composed of City agencies and departments identified sustainability strategies and urban design improvements with ZGF Architects to link energy, water, and waste systems in a new way to effectively optimize resource flows in the district.
Preliminary testing of these sustainability strategies and urban design improvements suggested that such a neighborhood may cost roughly 10 percent more than traditional development but yield approximately 50 percent more value. In addition to offering critical climate benefits, the investment would create community cohesion with more attractive places that people want and need: vibrant, vital, attractive, engaging, healthy places for an urbanizing world.
One conclusion of the Central SoMa Regenerative City Assessment discovered was that a new governance entity such as the Urban Design Center Kashiwa-no-ha (UDCK) would be needed to assume responsibility for stewardship of the district. Such an entity would be able to work across the sectors, scales, and phases of development beyond what any one partner could accomplish alone.
Image: Concept for a regenerative community, Regensia/ZGF