More engaged, connected and sustainable cities

Part one in a series providing an overlook of the accomplishments and ideals of the various chapters of Civic Commons. Their definition of sustainability might be a bit ‘minimal’ but it’s a great vision for cities nonetheless.

We define sustainability as increasing people’s access to nature and creating environmentally-friendly places, easily reached by walking, biking or transit, while civic engagement is all about building a sense of community that brings people of all backgrounds back into public life — as stewards and advocates — to shape their city’s future.

Something notable in how these chapters work is they are all collaborating with other local organizations and local governments. In Akron, Ohio, they partnered with the County of Summit, the City of Akron, and the Downtown Akron Partnership on a new corridor downtown to encourage people to the area while addressing environmental sustainability. The project resulted in more and safer bike lanes, broader sidewalks, more greenery, energy-efficient LED streetlights, and addressed stormwater with “permeable pavers that allow stormwater to be absorbed directly back into the ground.”

They also partnered with Summit Lake Nature Center, Summit Metro Parks (which manages the nature center), and Let’s Grow Akron to “reimagine the gardening space next door as a food source for the community.”

In Lexington, the Civic Commons group was part of planning the new Town Branch Park.

[Which is] envisioned as the anchor of the city’s Town Branch Commons trail system, the park will be both a green oasis, community living room and active destination that welcomes visitors of all backgrounds to experience the unique character and spirit of Lexington.

Pop-up events and citizen outreach were used to gather information and the team and their partners worked to “create a park made up of distinctive experiences united by a cohesive character — a place where each individual finds something to spark their passion and interest, while also discovering a connection with others and the community.”

The Chicago group also worked on a new park initiative.

At the core of this project is a strong focus on sustainability and sanctuary. The grounds and the gardens, which are currently being planted, will be home to native and regionally appropriate plant life, creating a refuge for local wildlife and visitors alike. After completion, Kenwood Gardens will serve as a hub for live performances, yoga, outdoor meeting and dining space and artist residencies.

Inspiring projects and organizations, I invite you to have a look at the various partners and clickthrough to their initiatives.