Image courtesy of Richard Reilly

The Urban EcoBlock is a radical new approach to living, celebrating diversity while instilling equity, justice and inclusion.

Systemic racism has plagued our culture here for centuries, from the bowels of slaves ships through plantation shacks and Jim Crow, to black-bank crushing, red-lining, HUD housing programs and predatory mortgage lending. Racial discrimination and social inequity have been intentionally designed by city planners, housing developers, banks and federal housing programs, perpetuating systems that enrich white people and extract labor from black and poor people. Through interracial and interclass cooperation, the Urban EcoBlock is seeking partners to repair these wrongs and revise the systems that perpetuate injustice and inequity.

At the heart of the Urban EcoBlock model is a social component which promotes diversity. Our ideal block imagines a racially integrated neighborhood, with both young and old people living together in harmony in a neighborhood centered around smartly landscaped grounds and playful common areas rather than a back alley. A mixed-income community including ~20-25% low-income residents enables those with more means to contribute more to the community, while those with less are able to contribute in other ways. Simply living around those with more affluence creates opportunities to lift people out of poverty. And everyone has a seat at the table early on to help create what they want in their community.

Another key feature of the EcoBlock concept is the use of Community Land Trusts. With a CLT, we are able to maintain common ownership of the land, while enabling residents to own the improvements. This enables the trustees to prevent property values from dramatically rising, reducing the effects of urban gentrification. The governance structure can also enable residents to establish a path to equity in a lease agreement. The CLT can be used to maintain low-income housing access, economic diversity, and common ownership, while promoting earth stewardship, equity and local governance.  Ultimately this will perpetuate the expansion and equitable design process of the Urban EcoBlock.

We imagine a community where neighbors care about each other, regardless of race or income. We share common areas, tools, cars and bikes. We envision elders caring for children, and seniors having young people around to provide needed support. The mixed-use aspect of the EcoBlock provides services right in the neighborhood, so people can walk to a small market, coffee shop or hair salon.

The world is changing, and the Urban EcoBlock model is a new paradigm for urban living. Stay tuned for progress updates as we advance this important initiative!