EcoDistricts Certified Welcomes Four New Neighborhoods to Growing Cohort

Two years ago, we launched EcoDistricts Certified, the world’s only verification platform that helps neighborhood teams embed equity, resilience and climate protection into their regeneration efforts. We’re pleased that 17 North American district and neighborhood redevelopment initiatives that represent over 45,000 acres where 400,000 people live, work and play have committed to using the EcoDistricts Protocol framework to build collaborative governance, create implementation roadmaps, and track their performance in areas such as placemaking, health and wellbeing, green infrastructure, and economic prosperity.

Since the start of the year, we’ve welcomed four new members of the EcoDistricts Certified cohort. In their first year of the program, these teams will be writing commitments documenting how they will integrate our Imperatives of equity, resilience and climate protection throughout their neighborhood governance and planning processes. To learn more about all of the neighborhoods pursuing EcoDistricts Certified, visit our district registry.

Towerside Innovation District, Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN

Towerside is a 370-acre district at the heart of the Twin Cities’ 3.5-million-person metro area. The Innovation District span the Twin Cities, from the University of Minnesota to a Creative Enterprise Zone. The neighborhood has a rich concentration of anchor institutions and assets, including the university, a medical and research complex, public transit stations, and new mixed-use, high-density living and working spaces. Towerside is working to implement district-wide systems for energy and stormwater management. The Innovation District is a group of community stakeholders, including landowners, businesses, government officials, non-profit organizations, and neighborhood groups that is working to implement a community and economic development framework for the area. Recently, Towerside suggested a change to the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan to add an “Innovation District” designation that establishes and supports Innovation Districts to employ district-scale infrastructure and systems and to implement flexible policies and practices to allow for experimentation and innovation consistent with the City’s most ambitious goals. This includes:

  1. Supporting district approaches to energy, stormwater, parking, waste management, and public realm systems. 
  2. Allowing for and encourage experimentation and innovation – including through changes to City policies and practices – consistent with City goals and expressed priorities of a given Innovation District such as sustainability, job development, production, equity, and affordability. 
  3. Supporting funding for redevelopment opportunities including housing, business development, sustainable district infrastructure, and greenspace, with priority given to affordable housing and/or job creation initiatives and projects. 
  4. In exchange for redevelopment and district system support, Innovation Districts will be required to provide beyond-standard developments and systems in energy efficiency and production, stormwater, parking, waste management, and public realm.

North Shore Innovation District, Vancouver, BC

The first registered EcoDistrict in Vancouver and second in Canada, the North Shore Innovation District (NSID) is a partnership of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and developer Darwin Properties. The NSID is also the first EcoDistrict community that includes a formal partnership with Native American or First Nations peoples. A site of industrial use through the late 20th century, the NSID is located between two ancestral villages of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, who lived in these villages and relied on the surrounding areas to obtain all the resources they need to sustain themselves. The site is partially forested and includes a designated conservation area. The NSID will feature conservation of the existing wetlands and forest, as well as new development including over 1,000 employee and community supportive homes, 100 kilometers of trails, and 600,000 square feet of new commercial space. As the NSID is located adjacent to the Maplewood community, local partners have already held over 21 public events and community open houses and gathered input from more than 1,300 community members to ensure that the master plan fits the needs of the surrounding neighborhoods.

Etna EcoDistrict, PA

EcoDistricts are catching on in Pittsburgh! Etna, along with its neighbors Millvale and Sharpsburg, have launched a collaboration partnership known as the Triboro EcoDistrict that allows the three municipalities to collaborate on shared initiatives and increases each community’s capacity to reach their own EcoDistrict goals. Etna is a one-square-mile borough of nearly 4,000 residents that is undergoing a grassroots revival. Once a mill town, Etna suffered in the late 20th century through periods of economic distress and environmental threat. Etna is slowing rebounding through the community’s dedication to improving the quality of life for all who live and work in the borough. Today, the community has over 160 businesses ranging from mid-sized manufacturers to smaller, family-owned retail and consumer outlets. After years of decline, Etna is growing younger each year as more couples with small children move into the community. Much of the past decade’s progress was led by the municipality to implement innovative green infrastructure to mitigate stormwater challenges. To ensure that future development is both sustainable and equitable, Etna embarked on its own EcoDistricts journey in late 2017 to bring about positive change in six key focus areas: water, air quality, mobility, energy, food, and social equity.

Broadway-Slavic Village, Cleveland, OH

Just like its legacy city neighbor, a multi-neighborhood adoption of EcoDistricts is underway in Cleveland, Ohio. In addition to the MetroHealth EcoDistrict, the historic neighborhood of Broadway-Slavic Village is the newest member of the Certified cohort. Broadway-Slavic Village, on Cleveland’s southeast side, is one of the city’s most diverse and historic neighborhoods. The neighborhood has a large, multi-ethnic community, especially Eastern European, as a result of commercial and industrial growth in the 1800’s and 1900’s. The neighborhood is 50 percent African American, and also has a vibrant Hispanic community. Following decades of disinvestment, nearly 45 percent of the 21,000 residents of Broadway-Slavic Village currently live below the poverty line. In 2007, the neighborhood recorded more home foreclosures than any other zip code in the US. Today, Broadway-Slavic Village benefits from a community of engaged residents, anchor institutions such as Third Federal Savings Bank and MetroHealth Hospital, and the Slavic Village Development Corporation. Since 2009, over $50 million in revitalization projects have been completed including housing, parks, public art, a transit station and various pedestrian and bike trails. These partners have embraced the EcoDistricts Protocol to foster dynamic, democratic and inclusive self-governance in the Broadway-Slavic Village community.

Why Certification

EcoDistricts Certified provides a flexible, holistic, and rigorous “how to” framework for organizing and achieving important public policy, sustainability, and investment goals. With EcoDistricts Certified, city builders have a powerful tool to transform urban redevelopment by bringing together city officials, community-based groups, real estate developers, financiers and major district stakeholders to formulate a shared vision and action plan that:

  • Celebrates and rewards innovation to encourage innovation and leadership
  • Encourages peer learning to build a global learning network that shares best practices and pushes one another to pursue continuous improvement
  • Facilitates transparency to get the best ideas in project governance, performative design, and project implementation into the hands of those who need it

EcoDistricts Certified starts with a simple premise: every neighborhood and district can and should develop a sustainability agenda. Using the Protocol as a guide, EcoDistricts Certified supports a full spectrum of new and existing neighborhoods and districts, including residential neighborhoods, business districts, institutional campuses, mixed-use projects, and redevelopment areas.

If you are a community and urban development leader interested in learning more about EcoDistricts Certified, visit our web page or contact Katy Ricchiuto, Program Manager, at


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