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Area near Capitol Hill light rail station could become an EcoDistrict

Capitol Hill Housing has received a $50,000 grant from the Bullitt Foundation to study the potential for creating an EcoDistrict around the Capitol Hill light rail station at Broadway and John. If the area becomes an EcoDistrict, the idea would be to expand environmentally friendly building strategies and features beyond simply one building to create an entire district dedicated to being more sustainable together.

(Image: Portland Sustainability Institute)

CHH is still in the process of selecting a firm to carry out the study, and they will not know exactly what an EcoDistrict could mean for the area until the selected firm makes their assessment. However, Michael Seiwerath, Executive Director of the Capitol Hill Housing Foundation, said the heavy construction and rebuilding around the station could provide “a perfect opportunity for it.”

The Bullitt Foundation is also behind the “net-zero energy” Cascadia Center which will begin construction soon on E Madison. We’ll have more on the Center’s status soon.

CHS reported in March that the city is studying the potential for buildings near the light rail station to share a heating source using district energy. With district energy, a series of underground pipes carries energy that the buildings above it can all pull from or add to. Near the Broadway station, the system would likely involve pipes carrying hot water.

District energy could be one part of an EcoDistrict, said Seiwerath. Heavy construction on Broadway to install the streetcar — possibly starting late this year — could be an opportunity to install some of the pipes and other infrastructure in the ground.

The Portland Sustainability Institute has been active in creating several pilot EcoDistricts there. Aside from green building and retrofitting, the EcoDistricts in Portland often include green streets with vegetation to capture and clean rain water runoff. The districts also focus on creating a culture of sustainability among the people and businesses within the districts.

Here’s a video from PoSI about EcoDistricts in Portland:

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6 thoughts on “Area near Capitol Hill light rail station could become an EcoDistrict

  1. The greenest thing would be to just have a design that accommodates more residents… Living densely is the best thing we can do for the environment (and the community…people will always be our best resource).

  2. I agree that the 1/2 mile surrounding this station should be amongst the densest populated sub-area of Capitol Hill. Howevever, keep in mind the uproar that always ensues when a new development is announced. I agree that a lot of newer development is rather uninspiring, but I am amazed at peoples reactions against the increased bulk and density the new developments bring.

    I have a hard time believing that most in the community would support more than 6 stories on most of the hill.

  3. Turning this area to anything close to a green district will be very difficult with the 350+ new parking spots under construction a block away at E Thomas, and 1000+ new parking spaces a couple blocks north. I’d think the only way to avoid the gridlocked parade of SOV’s would be to close off at least that section of Broadway to car traffic (buses and streetcars excluded). Best of luck, this is a great opportunity with one ginormous challenge.

  4. A steam and/or hot water heating/cooling district is a fascinating idea for this project. Seattle Steam (our local district energy utility) already serves SCCC, and there is talk of them providing service for the new Yesler Terrace, so this might fit in nicely.

    Any large scale replacement for baseboard heating benefits all of us, as electric resistance heating is a antiquated way to heat space, and is a burden on City Light’s status as a carbon neutral utility.

  5. Most of the parking spaces in the 230 Broadway development (at E Thomas St) are for the tenants of that building, and it works out to just a little more than 1 parking space per living unit. Would you rather all those cars park on Capitol Hill streets, thereby making street parking even more difficult?

    And the retail businesses which will occupy the ground level of the building need to have parking so that they will attract customers and be viable.

  6. You’ve completely missed the point of this. Density is the pre-requisite for district solutions, not an “either/or.” Without density, you don’t get the economies of scale that are necessary for somthing like district energy, say. It’s density + district.