For more than 40 years, the City of Portland and the Portland Metropolitan Region have been national leaders in urban policies and investments intended to revitalize the central city and adjacent neighborhoods, preserve the environment, improve equity, and make the city more economically competitive and livable. The “Portland brand” has been both emulated as path breaking and discounted as overly idiosyncratic. Among the elements contributing to Portland’s success have been strong public-private partnerships, a culture of planning, and a willingness to implement diverse ideas generated by academics, consultants, companies, and government agencies. Regionally, Portland has benefited from its location in the middle of the progressive Cascadia Corridor, stretching from VancouverBC to San Francisco.
Against this vibrant backdrop, this National Academies Workshop will use examples from Portland and the Northwest US / SW Canada region to explore critical questions about the future of urban sustainability. The meeting will be organized into four sessions over two days. Session 1 will provide background about Portland and Cascadia, emphasizing policy innovations and lessons that are potentially transferable elsewhere. Session 2 will focus on ways to leverage local success through partnerships with state and federal agencies, companies, and non-government organizations, including the possibility of creating one or more interagency and multi-sector National Laboratories that gather, test, and disseminate best urban practices. Session 3 will ask how cutting-edge academic and corporate scientific and engineering research can help cities to become more sustainable. Finally, Session 4 will address the challenging question of how financially strapped cities, with the assistance of private foundations, can become agents for achieving broader societal goals not directly linked to their operational mandates, such as climate change mitigation, energy independence, poverty alleviation, and the preservation of biodiversity.