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When the elementary students at Opal Charter School found out about the Portland Plan last fall, they did what they do best: They started exploring ideas. Through discussions, drawing, modeling and building, they collaborated on the creation of their own community. At the heart of their investigation was the question: What can we do to create a caring neighborhood that is healthy for generations to come?
By the time Mayor Sam Adams came to visit and cut the ribbon to their model community, they had fully realized their vision of a thriving neighborhood complete with tree houses sprinkled throughout the green spaces for music, reading and contemplation; a small urban farm with tiny clay strawberries and flowers; places for people to gather and play, a library, a wild animal park, bike paths and, of course, an ice cream parlor. They even figured out a way to share cars.
That a group of 7- to 9-year-olds could take on the task of making a place with creativity and gusto — intuitively grasping some of the key concepts of urban design and planning and the principles of sustainability — confirms that we can all play a part in planning for our future, regardless of age. It’s also an affirmation that innovation happens, whether in high-tech incubator labs or on the playground.
As an organization, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability recently reached a milestone in our strategic planning process, slightly reorganizing our 100+ employees to emphasize our capabilities as the City’s planning, research and development branch. And just like Opal School, whose mission is to “provoke fresh ideas [about the] environments where creativity [and] imagination … thrive,” we see our role as an incubator of both innovative ideas and practical solutions to address the challenges and opportunities of our time.
In this issue we’ll feature a handful of projects that include students and youth and show you how we’re cultivating innovation within our programs and policy development.
Thank you for being a part of that process,
City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability