9/11/2015 | Posted at 5:45 pm

Capitol Hill EcoDistrict


In March 2011 the Bullitt Foundation awarded Capitol Hill Housing a grant to spearhead the creation of a new “EcoDistrict” on Capitol Hill, allowing them to work with GGLO to conduct the research and outreach efforts detailed in the “Capitol Hill EcoDistrict” report (click here or on the image below to download the full 15MB PDF).


The intention of this report is to support the establishment of an EcoDistrict on Capitol Hill with an inventory of information and recommendations for action; it is a catalogue of goals, targets, metrics and strategies, which, if implemented, would improve the neighborhood’s environmental performance. The report represents the initial phase of creating the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict.

The overall vision of Capitol Hill’s EcoDistrict will evolve over time, but the starting point for the study detailed in our report is a vision of a high-performing, socially vibrant and equitable neighborhood; a neighborhood that is reflected in the Broadway light rail Station Area development and across the community; a neighborhood that meets environmental performance goals in six areas – Community, Transportation, Energy, Water, Habitat, and Materials – and becomes a model for EcoDistrict development in the city and region. This working vision was derived from a synthesis of the research presented in the report and input from community stakeholders.


Why Here? Why Now?

Increased social and environmental challenges, both global and regional, have highlighted the need for an evolving approach to sustainable community building. The EcoDistrict approach is a good model for meeting those demands, while supporting citywide efforts (such as creating a carbon neutral Seattle by 2050), by leveraging community action and the efficiencies of district-scale systems.

Upcoming development on the Sound Transit-owned LINK light rail Station Area Sites offers an unprecedented near-term window of opportunity for implementing efficient district-scale systems from the ground up, for building green buildings, and promoting a culture of sustainability in a concentrated area of Capitol Hill. Much of the site analysis detailed in our report focused on the Station Area Sites, since its development can plant the seed for a new EcoDistrict on Capitol Hill; this seed of development can serve as a catalyst for the surrounding neighborhood, kick-starting its evolution into a mature, district-scale EcoDistrict. (See below for more information about the EcoDistrict Study Area boundary.)

EcoDistrict Study Areas Map Diagram This map shows where the Station Area Sites are along Broadway, as well as the EcoDistrict study area boundary defined by the Capitol Hill Urban Center Village and Pike/Pine Urban Center Village boundaries, which provide a useful district-wide boundary for compiling and comparing neighborhood data. The area is not intended to prescribe a specific EcoDistrict boundary, which is likely to evolve as the EcoDistrict develops.

EcoDistrict Study Areas Map Diagram
This map shows where the Station Area Sites are along Broadway, as well as the EcoDistrict study area boundary defined by the Capitol Hill Urban Center Village and Pike/Pine Urban Center Village boundaries, which provide a useful district-wide boundary for compiling and comparing neighborhood data. The area is not intended to prescribe a specific EcoDistrict boundary, which is likely to evolve as the EcoDistrict develops.

Creating a Catalogue for Capitol Hill

In this first phase of Capitol Hill’s EcoDistrict, a site analysis of neighborhood resources and preliminary community outreach was conducted in order to inform initial recommendations for sustainability work on Capitol Hill. This report is a catalogue of that work. It is meant to assist Capitol Hill in developing its EcoDistrict, with goals, metrics and strategies identified around specific environmental ‘performance areas’: Community, Transportation, Energy, Water, Habitat, and Materials.

Assessing EcoDistricts through Performance Areas

Performance areas provide a useful framework for measuring EcoDistrict success over time and for clarifying community goals. They provide a comprehensive view of sustainability across a broad spectrum of issues (such as energy efficiency, waste management, and community health). Through performance areas the EcoDistrict promise of advanced sustainability is realized; no one area dominates and all are considered together. As EcoDistricts form and initial research and goal setting begins, baseline measurements of neighborhood “performance” in each performance area set the base point from which improvements can be measured over time. Additionally, baseline measurements can reveal which areas may be in more need of work than others and thereby help inform which strategies should be implemented sooner rather than later.


Evaluating Strategies at All Scales: Building, Infrastructure, and People

The choice of a specific set of appropriate strategies to pursue in any EcoDistrict depends on numerous site-specific factors – including community goals, site location, context, stakeholders, the regulatory environment, economics, demographics, politics, etc. While all strategies contribute to neighborhood performance, individual strategies address a variety of scales. For example:

  • Buildings: Sustainable design strategies at the building-scale or site scale can individually contribute to neighborhood goals such as energy and water efficiency, waste management, and sustainable education through building design. High performance buildings are integral to EcoDistricts. While building scale strategies do not require site-wide management or shared ownership, these strategies should be established, regulated, and measured for progress across an entire EcoDistrict.
  • Infrastructure: Green infrastructure strategies tackle sustainability at the district-scale, beyond the borders of individual sites. They can be essential for achieving higher levels of neighborhood-wide sustainability, while distributing costs that might be difficult for a single urban site. District-wide energy, stormwater and materials efficiencies, habitat creation and protection, and transportation infrastructure are examples of green infrastructure strategies that connect high performance buildings and individual sites to large district-wide systems. As a shared resource, district-scale infrastructure may require common ownership and/or management across an EcoDistrict.
  • People: Strategies that encourage sustainable behavior, or people-scale sustainability, are best suited to address equity, health, and cultural vibrancy through outreach and education. They provide an essential balance for EcoDistrict sustainability by directly addressing the social realm, while helping ensure that the strategies employed at the building-scale and district-scale (infrastructure) benefit the community in a holistic way and operate to their fullest potential. People-scale strategies promote behavior change through access to new information, education and training, as well as through offering monetary and other incentives.

Recommended Goals and Strategies for Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill is a prime neighborhood for establishing an EcoDistrict. An extensive account of the neighborhood’s many site assets and baseline performance for each of the six performance areas is detailed in the Performance Areas chapter of our report. Further, this chapter catalogues initial recommendations for performance goals, targets, metrics, and strategies for each performance area. Criteria for developing recommended strategies in the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict included consideration of:

  1. Best Practices from EcoDistrict Case Studies (see Appendix A and B)
  2. Stakeholder Priorities (see Appendix C)
  3. Existing Sustainability Projects, Opportunities and Local Resources
  4. Site Assets and Quantitative Data Analysis of Baseline Performance (see Performance Areas chapter)
  5. Potential Equity, Economic, and Environmental Impacts

Recommended strategies for the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict detailed in the Performance Area chapters include:


  • Build New Affordable Housing
  • Develop a Community Fruit Tree Harvesting & Food Bank Donation Program


  • Grow a Capitol Hill Community Orchard
  • Map all Urban Fruit Trees
  • Establish an Urban Farm Plot at the New TOD Development
  • Relocate the Broadway Farmers Market at the New TOD Development
  • Retrofit Wood-Stoves and Wood-Burning Fireplaces
  • Restrict Gas-Powered Yard Equipment
  • Monitor Air Quality Inside and Outside Buildings

Cultural Vibrancy

  • Develop Piazzette in Underutilized Spaces
  • Improve Hillclimbs Adjacent to I-5
  • Organize a Community Public Art Project Event
  • Increase Population and Employment Density Near High Capacity Transit


  • Provide Transit Passes to Tenants
  • Install Real-Time Arrival Info Monitors at Transit Stops


  • Minimize Installation of New Parking Stalls
  • Convert Parking Stalls/Street Parking to New Use
  • Create a Parking Management District
  • Increase Car-Sharing Stalls and Stops (for ZipCar, Avego, etc)
  • Separate Parking Stall Cost from Rent/Lease Costs
  • Plan a “Guerilla Parking Day”
  • Campaign to Remove Subsidies for Restricted Parking Zones


  • Develop a Neighborhood Wayfinding Program/Install Wayfinding Signage
  • Create an EcoDistrict Pedestrian Zone
  • Create an Annual Pedestrian Count Program
  • Conduct a Neighborhood Walkability Audit
  • Improve Alleys
  • Repair/Replace Inaccessible Sidewalks
  • Install Woonerfs/Convert Low Traffic Streets or Alleys to Woonerfs
  • Advocate for Pedestrian Infrastructure and Funding


  • Install More Bike Boxes at Major Intersections
  • Install Creative Bike Racks
  • Implement a Bike-Sharing Program
  • Open a Bikestation on Capitol Hill

  • Energy-Efficient Building Design (Target Big Users)
  • Energy Retrofits on Existing Buildings (Target Big Users)
  • Integrate with External District Energy System
  • Building Integrated Renewable Energy Generation
  • Certify All New Development to LEED Gold Minimum
  • Renewable Energy Purchase Agreement
  • Small-Scale Hydropower
  • Participate in the Seattle 2030 District
  • Advanced Metering
  • Visualize Energy Use – Dashboards and Pavement


  • Convert Underused PGS’s to Habitable or Permeable Uses
  • Water Visualization – Education: Residential
  • Water Reuse: New Multi-family and Non-Residential
    Efficient Water Fixture Retrofits & Installations
  • Stormwater Management – Green Roofs/Walls (New)
  • Stormwater Management – Green Roofs/Walls (Retrofit)
  • Stormwater Management – Swales/Raingardens


  • Create Habitat Corridors
  • Increase Tree Canopy
  • Create Habitat – Parks
  • Create Habitat – Right-of-Way
  • Create Habitat – Green Roofs and Walls
  • Create Habitat – Backyards


  • Develop Outreach to Reduce Residential Waste and Increase Diversion Rates
  • Provide Ample Space for Recycling, and Organic and Waste Disposal
  • Maximize Use of Recycled, Regional and Salvaged Materials in Buildings
  • Optimize Procurement Activities through Group Purchasing
  • Promote Yard/Garden Shares
  • Set Up a Neighborhood Tool Library

GGLO Team:

Chris Libby AIA, Principal
Alicia Daniels Uhlig NCARB, Principal, Director of Sustainability
Marieke Lacasse ASLA, CSLA, Principal
Dave Cutler AIA, Principal
Amanda Reed, Carissa Franks, David Bramer, and Tina Suh



Capitol Hill Housing
Capitol Hill EcoDistrict website & Facebook
Portland Sustainability Institute (PoSI)
Seattle 2030 District
Green Infrastructure

Related Presentations & Publications:

Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, Full Report with Appendices (15MB PDF)
Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, Report without Appendices (10MB PDF)
Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, Executive Summary Only (1MB PDF)
Transit Oriented Communities: A Blueprint for Washington State (more info)

Here are examples of what the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict might look like:


This rendering of Broadway near Denny highlights many EcoDistrict strategies that could be applied on Capitol Hill. Bioswales line the street, providing a buffer between street traffic, while also helping stormwater retention and increasing habitat. Dick’s Drive-In, a popular neighborhood burger joint, is reimagined as a “bike-in” restaurant, with kitchen powered by solar PV. A new streetcar, smaller traffic lanes for electric cars, and a two-way buffered bicycle track support more sustainable modes of transportation. New affordable housing and a LGBTQ Community Center support community equity and cultural vibrancy. Air Quality monitors and Energy Dashboards educate residents and visitors about how the area is performing. (Image Credit: Courtney Hathaway, GGLO)


Capitol Hill is at the center of many new transportation projects. This rendering illustrates the link light rail hub at Broadway and John as well as proposed streetcar line and bicycle track. Additional strategies illustrated include a district-wide urban orchard concept that is participatory – providing food and fellowship for those living and working in the vicinity. Renewable energy display panels embedded within the façade of the link light rail station light the street at night and serve as a way-finding beacon 24/7. Existing storefronts and residential buildings are reused and in some instances retrofitted with green roofs and green “eco-tapestry” walls which create habitat corridors and pollinator pathways in conjunction with new construction and right-of-way improvements. These habitat strategies complement curbside swales to provide a district-wide stormwater management structure. (Image Credit: Carissa Franks, GGLO)


This rendering of 11th Avenue near E Denny Way highlights the transformational change needed to significantly improve Capitol Hill performance – particularly in the areas of Community, Transportation, Water, and Energy. Converting lawn areas in Cal Anderson park to an urban farm and community orchard supports public health & sustainable behavior by providing urban agriculture opportunities. A bike-lift along steeper streets encourages car-free households. Energy retrofits of existing buildings repurpose existing neighborhood fabric into high performance buildings. Converting parking stalls along 11th from pollutant generating surfaces into a woonerf / boardwalk enhances cultural vitality and highlights a constructed wetland incorporated into more level streets running north/south which treat and store stormwater for neighborhood use as part of a district-scale stormwater management strategy. (Image Credit: Sarah Marshall, GGLO)