Planning Practice: Projects and Partnerships
| March 6, 2016 | 5:46 pm | APA, MassAPA | Comments closed

Four School + APA Planning Symposium

Ken Reardon (UMass Boston), Paige Peltzer (Harvard GSD), Erin Shaeffer (City of Salem), Mariana Arcaya (MIT), Juan Leyton (DSNI) and Penn Loh (Tufts UEP) with host Eran Ben-Joseph (MIT)

From Left: Ken Reardon (UMass Boston), Paige Peltzer (Harvard GSD), Erin Schaeffer (City of Salem), Mariana Arcaya (MIT), Juan Leyton (DSNI) and Penn Loh (Tufts UEP) with host Eran Ben-Joseph (MIT)

The annual convening of Massachusetts planning schools and the Massachusetts chapter of the American Planning Association happened last week at the MIT Media Lab. The event was centered around a panel that featured UEP’s Penn Loh and DSNI executive director/UEP MPP alum Juan Leyton. Other panelists included Paige Peltzer, a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Erin Schaeffer, a planner with the city of Salem, and Mariana Arcaya from MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

Ken Reardon, who spoke recently on Tufts campus about his work in post-Katrina New Orleans, gave an illuminating introduction about the importance of strong partnerships between planning academics and local communities. Reardon is the director of UMass Boston’s new Urban Planning and Community Development program.

The panel focused on success stories of university-community partnerships, such as the relationship between Tufts UEP and the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative. Afterward the talk, students, professors and practitioners had a chance to meet and greet over food and drinks. Until next year!

Cities for People with Gehl Architects
| March 4, 2016 | 1:52 pm | Events, UP3 | Comments closed

41VoiCgy+vL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

Gehl Architects urban designer Kate DeSantis visited Tufts UP3 this week to share the outlook and work of Jan Gehl, a Danish architect who started his eponymous firm in 2000. DeSantis, whose undergraduate degree was in neuroscience, represents a lot of what Gehl has worked towards. He was a contemporary of Jane Jacobs, and like Jacobs, he stood in opposition to the high modernism of the time. Instead of taking the 10,000 foot view of urban design, he focused on life and people first, then space, and finally buildings. He calls into question the assumptions about people made by computer models, and insists that people actually respond more to their city’ structures. Last year, the city of Somerville worked with Gehl Studio, developing research for their comprehensive plan, Somervision and Somerville By Design.

JanGehl20120418133151375_0001Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital, has gone through a dramatic shift since the 1960s, when many of its most impressive squares functioned as parking lots. They began experimenting with pedestrianized streets in 1962 with the Strøget, now the world’s longest. Since then, the city has been expanding the network of pedestrian streets and is currently working on building greater connections to the waterfront.

"Strøget" the Pedestrian Street

“Strøget” the Pedestrian Street

One thing DeSantis was sure to emphasize is that the success of Gehl Architects in Denmark isn’t necessarily going to translate to American cities. The average trip in Copenhagen is under 6 miles, far shorter than those in sprawling American cities. DeSantis and Gehl Architects have worked in San Francisco and New York City to experiment with pedestrianizing streets. Market Street, a main thoroughfare of San Francisco, was closed to cars in 2015 for the Market Street Prototyping Festival. The goal was to get strangers to interact and spend time on the street, as well as getting feedback from residents on the streets design features. For the three days of the festival, lingering activities increased by 700%, 30% more people walked along the street, especially elderly residents and children, and 15,000 people gave their design feedback through Neighborland.

A similar series of events were conducted in New York City, which saw many successful outcomes but also some negative responses. The City’s Police Commissioner was quoted as wanting to dig the project up and go back to the way it was. Though it may have made police work more difficult, it did lead to increased pedestrian traffic, reduced pedestrian injuries, and an improved perception of Times Square. Citywide, over 61 new plazas were created.

Mapping Stories of the City: Teaching Environmental Justice
| February 26, 2016 | 3:17 pm | Events, Tufts Environmental Studies Department | Comments closed

This week’s Lunch & Learn, hosted by the Tufts Environmental Studies department, featured the research of three Tufts students using maps and storytelling to create a broader understanding of environmental justice. The presentation, which can be found here, featured the work of English Department PhD student Lai Ying Yu, and undergraduates Morgan Griffiths and Savannah Christiansen. The project was sponsored by the Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service and came out of a class called “Mapping Stories of the City,” taught by Lai Ying.

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 2.13.06 PM

The class produced a blog called Changing Somerville, intended to help Somerville residents understand the complex issues affecting them and better work toward community-led solutions. The project was largely inspired by the work of UEP professor Julian Agyeman and his concept of Just Sustainabilities, which focuses on community social and economic sustainability in addition to environmental sustainability.

As Lai Ying says early on in the presentation, storytelling has a long history in community organizing, which she knows well from her background as an organizer in Boston Chinatown. Mapping Stories of the City encourages community residents to ask themselves “Where do I enjoy going? Do my neighbors have the same access as I do? What accounts for that difference, and what could be improved?” The mapping component allows for a “neutral” medium for sharing experiences.

Screen Grab of a Somerville Interactive Mapping Activity

Screen Grab of a Somerville Interactive Mapping Activity in Union Square.

Undergraduate Morgan Griffiths’ research focused on the Somerville Community Path, and resulted in a short film on the topic. An interesting finding of his interviews is that the art and gardens found on the path were placed spontaneously by residents, with no regulation by the city. The fact that they remain in good condition and not vandalized is a testament to the importance the community path has for local people.

Savannah Christiansen produced a video on the disconnect between green space and the environmental justice community of Somerville’s Ward 7. An important question that came out of her work has been how to improve green space access without displacing low-income residents, a concept known as “just green enough.”

To experience more of the stories of Somerville, continue on to their blog with all of its interactive mapping!

Tufts New Economy/Next System Project 3-Day Teach-In
| February 22, 2016 | 9:12 pm | Events, Tufts New Economy | 1 Comment

A three-day teach-in, sponsored by The Next System Project and the Global Development and Environment Institute, and organized by Tufts New Economy, is under way this week on Tufts campus.

The first event took place tonight in the Cabot Building, where participants watched a series of short films covering various strategies to achieve democratic decision-making and cooperative business structures, as well as new ways of thinking about resource distribution and economics in general. On the docket were the following films:

  • How We Live: A Journey Toward a Just Transition by Edge Funders Alliance
  • The Fish Parable by Ed Whitfield from the Fund for Democratic Communities
  • Our Beginnings by the CERO Cooperative (Cooperative Energy, Recycling, and Organics)
  • Real Money, Real Power by the Participatory Budgeting Project
  • Occupy the Farm (Trailer) by Todd Darling, Steve Brown, Carl Grether and Blake Hodges
  • Our Power by the Black Mesa Water Coalition and the Climate Justice Alliance

The films were followed by a more in-depth discussion of participants experience with cooperatives and ways to become more active in striving for alternatives to a dominant neoliberal economic system.

 

UEP Student Sarah Jimenez Leading a Discussion

UEP Student Sarah Jimenez Leading a Discussion

Teach-In Flyer

Teach-In Flyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The teach-in will continue until Wednesday, with tomorrow’s event showcasing some UEP thesis work researching participatory budgeting, cooperative finance, and community land trusts.

Finally, the teach-in will culminate in a UEP Colloquium featuring GDAE’s Neva Goodwin, Carlos Espinoza-Toro, formerly of the Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition, and Alice Maggio from the Schumacher Center for a New Economics. More information can be found on the event flyer above.

El Niño and Coral Reef Science in the Central Pacific
| February 16, 2016 | 10:55 am | Events | Comments closed

Randi D. Rotjan – Associate Research Scientist at New England Aquarium

On the eve of Charles Darwin’s birthday, Dr. Rotjan spoke at the Tufts Environmental Studies Lunch & Learn last week on the effect of El Niño and global warming on topical coral reefs and fish populations in the islands of Kiribati. Kiribati is a nation of scattered islands across thousands of miles of the Central Pacific with a population of just over 120,000. The Phoenix Islands, the worlds deepest UNESCO World Heritage Site, comprise 33 of these islands in roughly the area of the continental United States.

Phoenix Islands Protected Area http://www.phoenixislands.org/1_images/3dPerspective_wSeamounts_11-19-08.jpg

Phoenix Islands Protected Area
http://www.phoenixislands.org/1_images/ 3dPerspective_wSeamounts_11-19-08.jpg

An Introduction to Coral:

Coral are plant-like animals, but they are animals in the Anthozoa class. They survive through a symbiotic relationship with various Symbiodinium species, which photosynthesize and transforms calcium minerals from the ocean into the calcium carbonate that forms the backbone of coral structure.

Phoenix Islands Protected Area http://www.whoi.edu/cms/images/ oceanus/PIPAmap_94628.jpg

Phoenix Islands Protected Area
http://www.whoi.edu/cms/images/
oceanus/PIPAmap_94628.jpg

El Niño Warming Events:

During El Niño periods between 2002-2003, 2010, and 2015, ocean waters warmed enough to kill off significant portions of the Phoenix Islands’ coral. Corals turn white and die, a process called bleaching. Dead coral is then covered by an algae, which serves to feed fish populations, who can remain living in the protective skeleton of the dead coral. Eventually, a different, pink, algae invades, which serves as a food for baby corals. This marks a certain amount of resilience in coral populations. After the 2002 and 2010 bleaching events, when nearly 100% of coral had been destroyed, it had almost completely recovered before the 2015 El Niño. Interestingly, research has shown that the presence of shipwrecks tends to inhibit coral recovery. Further research is going to bring more of a focus on the local human impact, and the team is bringing an anthropologist on their next trip.

Big Mama - World's Biggest Coral

Big Mama – World’s Biggest Coral
https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/
-3PUSJBv1GSQ/VJjd6wPCvZI/AAAAAAAAsJo/
LLTjt3xPZzs/w2048-h1396/Bigmama.jpg

Banning Bus Rapid Transit: Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean
| February 14, 2016 | 5:52 pm | Events, UP3 | Comments closed

Tufts’ undergraduate planning collective, UP3, brought former Nashville mayor Karl Dean to talk about his time as mayor and working toward the development of a bus rapid transit line in the city. Nashville, known for its country music hall of fame and honkey tonk music and bar scene, has experienced rapid growth over the last 20 years. The music scene, development of Nissan Stadium, home of the Tennessee Titans, and a new convention center have resulted in an influx of people and businesses moving into the city core.

Nashville Honkey Tonk

Nashville Honkey Tonk https://sites.tufts.edu/uepblog/files/ 2016/02/nashville.jpg

Especially in the last few years, this influx has created demand for a better transit system in Nashville. Despite running on a platform of education, public safety, and economic development in 2007, newly elected Mayor Dean decided to begin working toward a bus rapid transit (BRT) system. Usually, BRT gives a bus a dedicated lane so as to avoid inner city vehicle traffic. The photo below depicts Bogotá’s famous TransMilenio system:

BRT in Bogotá, Colombia http://na.steerdaviesgleave.com/casestudies/bogota%E2%80%99s-bus-rapid-transit-system

BRT in Bogotá, Colombia http://na.steerdaviesgleave.com/casestudies/ bogota%E2%80%99s-bus-rapid-transit-system

Nashville began with what Dean calls “BRT-light,” which doesn’t include a dedicated lane but is structured more as an express bus (fewer stops, longer distance between stops) and has traffic light controlling technology to move more efficiently through the city. As a result, ridership increased dramatically. Things changed when Dean attempted to put in a dedicated lane. Despite a lot of federal support, the project fell through. The republican-controlled state legislature and local car dealership interests, backed by the big money of the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, mounted enough opposition to block the plan. The idea of providing transit to people without cars was too much for them, and the design process for the BRT system (called Amp) was stopped in 2015.

http://usa.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2015/01/Regional_Transit_Vision.jpg

http://usa.streetsblog.org/wp-content/ uploads/sites/5/2015/ 01/Regional_Transit_Vision.jpg

No longer mayor, Dean now teaches at Belmont University in Nashville.

Scholars Strategy Network Podcast on Gentrification
| February 8, 2016 | 8:38 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

The Scholars Strategy Network, a nonprofit outlet and venue for connecting scholars with policymakers based in Cambridge, MA, recently released a podcast on Gentrification. The podcast, from a series titled No Jargon, interviews university scholars on public policy, politics, and social issues. In this episode they talk to Jackelyn Hwang, a postdoctoral research fellow at Princeton University. Hwang’s 2014 study of gentrification in Chicago, Divergent Pathways of Gentrification: Racial Inequality and the Social Order of Renewal in Chicago Neighborhoods, brought out some interesting patterns not usually considered when dealing with changing city demographics.

The most striking outcome of her study is the way that racial dynamics can affect whether gentrification, and the level of investment associated with it, occurs at all. Using Google Street View, which Hwang claims is better for assessing gentrification than census data, they quantified gentrification in Chicago through the visible presence or absence of litter, graffiti, new construction, and a number of other variables. Comparing this with census data within the neighborhood, the study shows that gentrification is occurring most rapidly in diverse neighborhoods up to a point. Gentrifiers are attracted to diversity, but if a previously low-income community is greater than 35% black, gentrification does not occur. Accounting for crime, poverty and vacancy, this trend persisted across many Chicago neighborhoods and has fascinating implications for planners and policymakers.

The host suggests policymakers need to take two approaches to facilitating investment: one for gentrifying neighborhoods and one for persistently poor but not gentrifying neighborhoods. He calls it affirmative action for neighborhood investment. Hwang emphasizes the need to promote investment that protects current residents and prevents displacement. One example she cites from Philadelphia is the property tax cap. If you purchase a house in Philadelphia and own it for 10 or more years, and suddenly the surrounding real estate market booms, your property taxes don’t go up. This notably protects homeowners but not renters. A landlord could still benefit from lower tax rates but make more money when they perceive an increase in the market price for rent. Another approach, quickly laughed off by the host, is rent control.

UEP Colloquium: Disaster Planning in New Orleans Lower 9th Ward
| February 4, 2016 | 2:48 pm | Colloquium | Comments closed

On the kickoff event of UEP’s spring colloquium series, Ken Reardon, professor of Urban Planning and Community Development at UMass Boston gave a compelling talk about planning the redevelopment and ultimately the protection of the Lower 9th Ward in post-Katrina New Orleans. The story begins with the president of Cornell University (where Reardon had been an associate professor at the school of Architecture, Art, and Planning at the time) striking up a conversation and forging a friendship with the president of Tulane University, offering to exchange a favor if the need should ever arise.

Fast forward to Hurricane Katrina in September, 2005, and $150 billion of damage and destruction led to an assessment by the Urban Land Institute that resulted in the “green dot map” which slated many neighborhoods and most of the Lower 9th Ward for a future as green space. The many communities that lived there, mostly poor people of color, were told that building permits would not be awarded and the area was at too much risk of future flooding for any kind of redevelopment after the Katrina disaster. In reaction to this, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) started collecting information that seemed to conflict with ULI’s assessment. The people of New Orleans began to think about taking Cornell up on its offer.

http://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1085&context=usp_fac

Katrina Flooding and Elevation Maps, http://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1085&context=usp_fac

Despite some hesitation from Cornell AAP, an energized student body convinced the school and department to devote time and resources to studying the redevelopment of New Orleans and specifically the Lower 9th Ward. Reardon taught a course in fall 2005 on the history of planning and policy in New Orleans, followed by a student led winter trip to assist in cleaning and gutting some of the city’s most devastated neighborhoods. Working together with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and the University of Catania in Italy, they formed a partnership with ACORN to conduct policy-oriented studios and create an internship program for the city’s redevelopment. The ACORN/university team responded to an RFP for the redevelopment of a city that had almost no relevant existing data due to the extent of the destruction, a huge diaspora population that would likely need to be surveyed, and needed a hugely complicated inter-institutional team of planners and developers, but their plan was accepted and they were put into a supervisory position over much more established firms.

The outcome of the study was a stark contrast with that of ULI. They found most of the Lower 9th Ward to be fully suitable for redevelopment at a reasonable cost. Despite pushback from the city establishment and the American Institute of Certified Planners, including a complete revocation of funding and insurance, the ACORN/university partnership completed their report ahead of the competition and presented it to a massive audience of neighborhood residents, news outlets, city officials, FEMA, state representatives and more. The next day, headlines across the globe read “Planners Say 9th Ward Can Be Redeveloped” and focused on the importance community engagement in their analysis. Today, according to Reardon, approximately 65% of residents of the Lower 9th Ward have returned and the feel of the neighborhood is back to its former vibrancy, though it has definitely changed. Reardon stressed the importance of their high quality analysis, qualitative resident interviews, and grassroots community organizing in producing a report and feasible plan that reflected the needs of the people. The report, titled “A People’s Plan for Overcoming the Hurricane Katrina Blues” can be found here.

 

China in Latin America: Seeking a Path Toward Sustainable Development
| January 28, 2016 | 3:49 pm | Tufts Environmental Studies Department | Comments closed

Rebecca Ray, a fellow at the Global Economic Governance Initiative at Boston University, spoke to the weekly Tufts environmental science Lunch and Learn about her research on the social impacts of Chinese investment in Latin American development. The two main questions in Ray’s research are:

  1. Has China been an independent driver of environmental and social change in the region?
  2. Do Chinese investors have different behavior from their international peers?

These questions were answered through a series of eight case studies of Chinese investment in different countries and industries from oil extraction in Colombia and mining in Bolivia to soybean agriculture in Brazil.

Findings show that China has been an independent driver of environmental and social change by quickly meeting most local standards with the right oversight. There has also been an effect of developers pushing governments to lower their environmental and social standards for resource extraction, so there are crucial roles for Latin American government officials and civil society to protect the environment and the people who reside in and alongside it. Luckily, in most cases the “pollution haven” model does not apply as Latin American countries tend to have higher standards than China.

Figure 1 below, from Ray and the Global Economic Governance Institute’s paper “China and Latin America: Lessons for a South-South Cooperation and Sustainable Development,” shows China’s share of Latin American exports over time, illustrating China’s increasing power in the region.

Figure 6 from the same publication shows the average environmental impacts of exports to China as compared with all exports, showing a much higher ecological footprint for Chinese exports. This doesn’t even cover the effect of the roads created for development projects. Every dam, mine and railway project must first build roads to deliver supplies. Once roads are built, according to Ray, new towns are developed along them that further deplete natural resources, totally separate from the extractive industry for which the roads were initially built.

Jobs generated due to exports to China are illustrated in Figure 5 below, which has been decreasing over time.

The map below demonstrates the fine line these developments must (but often don’t, especially without proper oversight) straddle between areas of immense and protected biodiversity, lands occupied by indigenous peoples, and a state’s desire for outside investment into its eonomy.

Luckily, according to Ray, Chinese investors in development are often better behaved than their peers when high environmental standards are enforced. Latin American governments have a responsibility for holding extractive industries accountable, as showcased by a lawsuit against Sinopec (a Chinese petroleum and chemical corporation) in Colombia in which the judge placed much of the blame on regulators for ineffective oversight. In cases of strong and effective oversight, regulations were followed successfully with minimal protest from surrounding communities. Pushback from civil society, as seen below, is a logical outcome when government can’t always be held accountable. This in particular when, in times of economic slowdown, governments will tend to loosen environmental regulations to spur increased investment.

Ray’s talk closed out with recommendations to Latin American governments, the Chinese government, and Chinese development banks: Don’t erode environmental safeguards, prioritize dialogue with civil society, train investors in development behavior that complies with international standards, and learn from previous experience.

 

Community Development Student Project: Cleveland, OH
| January 15, 2016 | 3:36 pm | student papers | Comments closed

More Than A Utopian Vision: Cooperative Business Models That Work

This post is an adaptation of a project by UEP student Lylee Rauch-Kacenski for Professor Lorlene Hoyt’s course on Community Development, Planning and Politics.

You like shopping at food cooperatives and have heard of housing cooperatives, but how much of a difference can a single laundry facility, greenhouse or solar company really make? The reality is that a cooperative business is more than just revenue; it is a vote for what an alternative reality can look like; a living example of who benefits when we work together towards a common goal and vision. The problems we face as a society are daunting. Poverty, crime, unemployment and lack of safe affordable housing are all too common in many of our communities. Change can feel impossible when the problems are complicated and ingrained by years of policy, divestment in neighborhoods, and changes in economics. Through cooperatives, businesses that are owned and run by their workers, we can start to chip away at some of the problems affecting our neighborhoods and cities.

[https://www.clevelandfoundation.org/grants/our-priorities/greater-university-circle/]

One particularly interesting case study of how key players in a community can come together to work on any issue from all sides is Greater University Circle in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland represents a typical post-industrial city. Once thriving with steel mills and the oil industry, it has been steadily declining since its peak in the1950’s and is searching for a new economic vision and place in the country. In this blog, we will dive in to the story of the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland. Community developers and anchor institutions, nonprofits who are established in an area and likely will not leave such as hospitals and universities, came together to envision how they could help their city and residents thrive. One of the areas they focused on was developing high paying, quality jobs for the residents of the neighborhoods surrounding their institutions.

The area of Cleveland known as Greater University Circle is home to three anchor institutions: Case Western Reserve University, University hospitals and the Cleveland Clinic, 5 neighborhoods, and cultural institutions including the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cleveland Orchestra. Despite these institutions and hub of culture, Greater University Circle (henceforth referred to as The Circle) remains an impoverished area with an average salary of $18,500 a year. In 2005 the anchor institutions of The Circle, the Cleveland Foundation and other key advocates for community development came together to strategize how they could use their influence to help transform the area.

The Greater University Circle Initiative (GUCI) was formed to address challenges in the area and determine steps to improve the greater community of the Circle. The two basic values of the initiative were that “by working together, anchor institutions can achieve more than any single institution working on its own” and “while physical development is important to revitalization, neighborhoods cannot succeed unless the people living there are valued and empowered.”[1] The four strategy areas include institutional partnership, physical development, economic inclusion and community engagement. I will focus specifically on how GUIC addressed the issue of economic inclusion.

Together the three anchor institutions have a purchasing power of $3 billion a year, the majority of which is used to purchase goods produced outside the city. Together they devised a plan to create mutually beneficial industries in the neighborhood, creating jobs in the immediate area and keeping the money expended by the institutions within The Circle. An innovation that came from that plan is the Evergreen Cooperative Initiative. Created in 2008 as a way to build wealth as well as jobs in the community, the Cooperative network has three employee-owned, for-profit, green business in the area.

The Evergreen Cooperative Laundry was started to provide laundry services for the hospitals, nursing homes, hotels and restaurants in the area that had been sending their laundry to outside providers outside the area. The Cooperative is certified as highly sustainable by the Green building Council and implements an environmentally friendly approach and uses less heat and water than conventional laundry methods. Evergreen Energy Solutions is a solar company that designs, installs, and develops solar panel arrays in the Cleveland area. The newest Cooperative, Green City Growers is a 3.25-acre hydroponic greenhouse that will produce about three million heads of lettuce and three hundred thousand pounds of herbs a year. Hydroponic vegetables are grown without soil, using water and mineral nutrients. The method helps to eliminate soil erosion and runoff typical of industrial agriculture. Green City Growers focus is on growing lettuce and herbs primarily for the institutions in the Circle area.

As always, there are gaps between the ideals, values, and long-term vision of a business and the day to day realities. Many studies on Evergreen were completed after the first year and there have been some fundamental changes since then. The Evergreen Cooperative Corporation (ECC) governs the cooperatives and the Evergreen Business Services (EBS) maintains functionality through everyday support services. The cooperatives have made substantial management changes since they first started because of challenges balancing the businesses. There have been significant accomplishments credited to plans developed in 2013 when the ECC actively worked to identify gaps and weaknesses (Austrian, Ziona 14).

According to the 2014 Greater University Circle Initiative “Year 4 Report,” the cooperatives employ 84 people, 41 of which are employee owners. When the cooperatives started, each worker was hired for a six-month trial period, after which they could become a part owner of the business. Due to the request of employees there has been a shift from using the term “worker-owner” to “member” in order to better reflect the members’ rights and responsibilities in the organization. The trial period to become a member has shifted from six months to a year per request of the members. In 2014, two of the co-ops were able to distribute profits to their employees for the first time. By vote, the members decided “to distribute profits to all workers, not only those that are already owner-workers, which boosted employee morale significantly” (Austrian, Ziona 16). New support programs have also been initiated to help employees purchase automobiles and homes in the area.

The cooperatives have made vast strides in each of their businesses since their founding. I will briefly discuss some of the highlights in each company. The Evergreen Cooperative Laundry (ECL) has 39 employees and had its first profitable year in 2014. One highlight included the acquisition of University Hospitals as a new client, increasing the cooperative’s profitability. The Evergreen Energy Solutions had 8 employees in 2013 and is now up to 14. It expanded from installing solar panels to converting older lighting systems to LED lighting, doing general construction and housing rehabilitation. Green City Growers, the newest cooperative, has 31 employees. The Cooperative has started selling directly to grocery stores and restaurants in addition to its wholesale accounts, and has a booth at a local market. Green City Growers is not yet a profitable business, but is tweaking its model to achieve that goal. One shift includes using 60% of the space to grow basil, a more profitable crop than lettuce.

The current Minimum wage in Cleveland is $8.10. In 2013 the average hourly wage for the Growers was $10.64, Laundry was $11.34 and Energy Solutions was $15.65. According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, the hourly living wage for one adult is $9.61 and for one adult and one child is $20.17. In 2014 statistics the wages had decreased slightly but are still higher than the living wage calculation. According to videos on Evergreen’s websites, employees generally seem positive about being a part of the cooperatives, grateful to have jobs in the area and be invested in the cooperative model.

Cooperatives are not utopia, a fantasy land where everything is perfect. They take a lot of hard work, but it’s that kind of investment in a model that supports people, and includes many voices and input from all owners, that moves forward the ideas of how a job can be more than just a paycheck, and a neighborhood can be more than just a collection of people. No business or approach to solving problems in our communities is 100% successful, but the Evergreen Cooperatives is an encouraging model of what the future of business could look like.

[1] http://www.evgoh.com/e2s/solar-energy/, http://www.evgoh.com/ecl/facility/, http://www.evgoh.com/business-services/

Austrian, Ziona; Hexter, Kathryn W.; Clouse, Candi; and Kalynchuk, Kenneth, “Greater University Circle Initiative: Year 4 Evaluation Report” (2015). Urban Publications. Paper 1288. http://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/urban_facpub/1288

Evergreen Cooperatives. Accessed October 1, 2015. Available from http://evergreencooperatives.com

Living Wage Calculator for Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Accessed October 1, 2015. Available from http://livingwage.mit.edu/counties/39035

The Cleveland Foundation. Accessed October 1, 2015. Available from http://www.clevelandfoundation.org

Wright, Walter; Hexter, Kathryn; and Clouse, Candi, “Lessons From the Cleveland Integration Initiative” (2014). Urban Publications. Paper 1242.

http://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/urban_facpub/1242

Other Resources:

http://evergreencooperatives.com/2013/02/green-city-growers-cooperative-the-third-evergreen-company-is-open-for-business/

http://metropoles.revues.org/4950

http://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2261&context=urban_facpub&sei-

http://plt.sagepub.com/content/14/2/152.full.pdf

https://colab.mit.edu/sites/default/files/Sustainable_Economic_Democracy%20(1).pdf