On April 12, over 80 members, sponsors and guests came together to learn more about the urban regeneration of Denver through an increasingly popular trend: EcoDistricts.

Josh Radoff, Founding Principal at YR&G, explained that an EcoDistrict is equity resilience with a plan for carbon resource regeneration and environmental ratings. As an EcoDistrict, you decide what is important and report on these items as a group. Often times an EcoDistrict teams with a local non-profit to support the project for the community and addressing the problems of the community.

Last fall, Denver announced a new certification for the process of a roadmap for addressing certain areas around the city. An EcoDistrict is not about how many street signs you need, it takes forming a group of stakeholders, regularly reporting on what is happening within your area, creating a roadmap for success and most importantly, performance.

Sandy Mendler, Principal at Mithun, discussed the EcoDistrict inspiration and shared her first story from Oregon where they were closing the Portland Institute: Joyd Crossing Catalyst Project. The group looked at the benefits collectively, created a new transit system and reduced the environmental impact of the plans, including a wind farm and addressing the habitat and carbon aspects, solar energy, etc. The goal for the next 30 years is for the citizens of Portland to be more sustainable, livable, connected, resource regenerated, cultural, healthy, and prosperous. A very similar goal to those in Denver.

There are many stories around the country like Portland’s. Chatam University viewed waste as a resource and in return found ways to reuse water and lights for the entire campus, making for a more sustainable environment. Baltimore eliminated the loop of waste with the community driving the entire project.

Closer to home, Chris Parr, Development Direct Manager of the Sun Valley EcoDistrict, discussed their development process in Denver. The plan took 7 years to determine the technical aspects, community sustainability infrastructure for growing food, new housing and implementing open spaces. The energy system produced for Sun Valley has since saved time and money and was supported by the community more than most traditional projects. The group saw the original conversation quickly turn to building a small, new city inside an already existing city.

The afternoon’s final speaker, Jocelyn Hittle, Director of Denver Program Development for Colorado State University, discussed the potential for the National Western Stockshow. In the next 36 years, $121.5 million is to be dedicated to building new facilities. The plan includes connecting neighborhoods, restoring the South Platte River and moving all activity north of I-70. The plan will nearly double the economic impact and the size of the National Western Stockshow with goals to have net zero energy water and water, restored S. Platte River,  a partnership with NREL, education and demonstration.

Denver: the landscape of cities and communities is changing to be more sustainable or EcoDistrict focused. By 2050, over two thirds of the world’s population is expected to be living in cities with this new model, and attention is being paid to regenerating cities while generating sustainability.