the Ecovillage Tour

I toured the Ecovillage in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood (on the Cleveland west side) for a couple hours about weeko ago along with Lilah from Detroit-Shoreway CDC and a EcoVillage project director.

What does an ecovillage mean ?

From their website, the ecovillage:
”The EcoVillage is:
* An innovative partnership involving nonprofit organizations, the city, the regional transit authority, private developers, and neighborhood residents.
* A national demonstration project that will showcase green building and transit-oriented development.
* An opportunity to realize the promise of urban life in the most ecological way possible.

That being said, what does the label ‘ecovillage’ really mean in this neighborhood ?

Walking through, I would not be aware that I was walking through the Ecovillage if I had not known it was there (Lilah acknowledged branding is one of their weaknesses). At first glance, it was a neighborhood like others in Cleveland: closely spaced homes [colonials and ranches] from the early 1900s (about 5 feet from neighbor’s driveway to your house). No businesses on the side streets. Empty grass lots dotted the landscape. Some houses well maintained, others – not as much.

As a neighborhood that labelled as environmentally conscious, the level of participation in the ecological urban life for a resident varies. Some of the residents participate (I saw one working the compost pile at the community garden).

There were also included some newer ‘green homes’ (built with coordination of the CDC) which had some greener amenities [a heating bill of $600 a year], no-mow grass (which I really like and want to plant myself when I buy a home).

I Walked through the RTA Rapid Station on West 65th containing some sustainable features in it (natural lighting is one specific I remember). The location appears to be situated well, near Lorain, running through the neighborhood. I did cringe when $2.3 million was spent on the station (I don’t know its sources of funding).

There were some failures in the neighborhood. The ‘pocket park’ (a small spot of trees and greenspace on the corner of an intersection) never came to be and is now littered with trash and a sink hole. Plans for more green homes never came to fruition with the decreased demand for housing after the housing bubble. Some ‘broken-window’ elements [like spray-painted benches at the station] remained.

This was a quick walk through and still leaves a lot of questions, which leaves me wanting more after the walkthrough and a discussion.

Do residents care about the EcoVillage label ? How do they think it will impact their lives ? Do they know and take advantage of the opportunities that exist ?

Can an ecoVillage thrive in a place which a lot of the housing [built in the 1940s-50s – hasty generalization from looking at a couple parcel records at the county GIS] ?
Are these older houses structurally sound and able to be adapted to more environmental modifications ?

(A long overdue post from over a month ago !)

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