Vision for a greener First Hill community

At a recent Yesler Community Collaborative gathering, Brad Liljequist presented the findings from a year-long research project to create a vision of a Living Community for the First Hill neighborhood. Liljequist is Net Zero Energy Director at International Living Future Institute in Seattle. Participants in the planning process envisioned a regenerative future for the community around the following topic areas:

  • integrating urban agriculture and food systems into the neighborhood;
  • radically transforming networks within the right-of-way as places that favor people and place making rather than motorized vehicles;
  • using net zero water principles on a micro-watershed scale;
  • guiding and implementing a renewably-powered future for the neighborhood;
  • creating a healthier, more equitable, and more livable neighborhood to foster the significant community that already exists in the community.
Participants at an ILFI Charette consider various land use options.

Participants at an ILFI Charette consider various land use options.

International Living Future Institute has as its goal to engage citizens worldwide in re-imagining the communities in which they live to become more healthful for residents while reversing their negative long-term effects on the environment. As community members ask the question, “What do we as humans really need? Is the city giving us that?” they can begin to build a vision for a neighborhood and city with different priorities.

The ILFI study revealed some interesting facts about the First Hill neighborhood, which they defined as extending from I-5 on the west to 15th Ave on the east, and from Madison on the north to include Yesler Terrace on the South.

For example, researchers established that people living in this neighborhood consume about 30 million pounds of food a year. Using gardens such as Danny Woo Community Garden as a model, it would be possible to actually grow that amount of food within the neighborhood’s boundaries in existing open space. The study identified multiple opportunities to grow food in this area:  through school programs, job training programs, urban farming, green roofs, raised beds, bacteria farms, green houses, and indoor vertical farms, for example.

In a dense neighborhood such as First Hill, people generally have less access to nature. Planning efforts have focused on how to restore this connection. One option is to explore ways to “re-wild” parts of the neighborhood by changing the amount of land that is paved over with streets, sidewalks and parking lots. In fact, 38 percent of the study area has been identified as Right of Way. Rethinking the amount of real estate given over to cars and traffic can potentially have a profound effect on the quality of life of the neighborhood’s residents. For example, within First Hill, most transportation is not by car, but most of the Rights of Way are devoted to their use.

ILFI will continue to work with Yesler Community Collaborative and the residents of the First Hill neighborhood to implement the vision that has been established. The full report of this work to date is available on the ILFI website.

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