Urban Ecovillages – Definitely Not a Pipe Dream

Urban ecovillages are indeed a reality in the U.S., from Cleveland EcoVillage, Detroit Ecovillage, and Culver Way Cohousing in St. Louis, to organized neighborhood-style ecovillages: Enright Ridge Urban Ecovillage in Cincinatti, Phinney Ecovillage in Seattle (described in Cecile Andrews’ book, Slow is Beautiful), and of course the grandmamá of them all, Los Angeles Eco-Village. (See “L.A. Eco-Village Stops Bulldozers!”).



And we heard from these urban ecovillagers. Jim Schenk of Enright Ridge Urban Ecovillage described the organized neighborhood he and neighbors have been developing since 2004 in the multiracial, working-class, Price-Hill area of Cincinnati. Enright Ridge is a unique physical set-up too: while this mile-long cul-de-sac street is minutes from downtown, it’s surrounded by 200 acres of woods and a hiking trail. Here many neighbors are renovating their homes to become more energy efficient, planting organic vegetable gardens, participating in a neighborhood food co-op, and taking part in other “green” neighborhood activities.

Tom Braford, co-founder of Culver Way Cohousing in St. Louis, Missouri, described how this 44-unit community, now under construction, has morphed from a solely cohousing community into a cohousing-style urban ecovillage. Culver Way is the second ecovillage in the US to use the cohousing model. (EcoVillage at Ithaca was the first.)

Cleveland and Chicago: Going Green

Sometimes City Hall gets the message, too. Mandy Metcalf, project director for Cleveland EcoVillage, told how a coalition of a neighborhood redevelopment nonprofit, a “green” city planning nonprofit, the City of Cleveland, and Cleveland’s Rapid Transit Authority are developing an area within walking distance of Cleveland’s newly renovated West 65th Street Transit station. The coalition is building new ecologically sustainable affordable homes in vacant areas, helping neighbors renovate their existing homes for energy efficiency, and creating community gardens and bike paths, among other green initiatives.

And Chicago, the conference host city, intends to become “the greenest city in the nation,” according to Sadhu Johnson, Assistant to the Mayor for Green Initiatives, who described the potential for ecovillage-style developments in Chicago.

Other presenters included Julie Peterson, coordinator of the Beyond Today ecological neighborhood project in Chicago.