EcoInnovation District Plan Receives National Excellence in Sustainability Award

PITTSBURGH, PA (May 5, 2020) The City of Pittsburgh Department of City Planning along with its partner organizations received an Excellence in Sustainability, Community Plan award from the American Planning Association’s Sustainable Communities Division for the EcoInnovation District Plan. The award honors projects, plans, policies, individuals and organizations whose work is dedicated to supporting sustainable communities. 

The EcoInnovation District Plan combined the goals of both EcoDistricts and Innovation Districts to build a neighborhood plan for the Uptown area with a focus on healing the environment, supporting the needs of existing residents, and expanding job growth. The Uptown neighborhood is a four-block wide, 1.6 mile stretch of Pittsburgh between Downtown and Oakland, two of the largest employment centers in Pennsylvania. This EcoInnovation District Plan was the first plan adopted from the City’s neighborhood planning program

The planning process addressed concerns around safety, environmental problems, and disinvestment through an inclusive, comprehensive engagement strategy that built trust and partnerships in the community. In total, close to 1,000 people attended zero-waste public events, took the community-wide survey, participated in interviews or attended regular meetings, with thousands more engaging with the project online.

The resulting plan included infrastructure improvements, community-driven initiatives, and a new performance-based tools in the Zoning Code that incentivize affordable housing and energy efficiency. Proposed projects include sustainable buildings on publicly owned property, new and improved open spaces that treat stormwater, support for small businesses, a nature trail, district energy, new transportation tools that will reduce congestion and make the streets safer for everyone. A partnership with the Green Building Alliance ensures that all building proposals in Uptown receive green building consultations at the earliest stages when this information benefits projects and the community the most.

The process also helped the City and Port Authority of Allegheny County develop a more sustainable and community-driven proposal for Bus Rapid Transit on the Fifth and Forbes Avenue corridor. The planning process strengthened partnerships between organizations including Uptown Partners, Duquesne University, UPMC, Avenu, non-profits Green Building Alliance and Sustainable Pittsburgh, and public agencies at the City and County. These partnerships, and the formation of the Uptown Task Force as a forum for taking action on the plan’s vision, have allowed many of these projects to move forward into implementation.

“It is an honor to accept the Excellence in Sustainability award for the EcoInnovation District, which recognizes the work of the residents and community partners that were involved in the planning process. We look forward to continuing to work with those partners to make their vision a reality,” said Andrew Dash, acting director of the Department of City Planning. “The lessons we learned through the EcoInnovation District process continue to improve the neighborhood planning program, and the partnerships forged there have helped us establish new standards and programs for sustainable development.”

The EcoInnovation District Plan also received an award from the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association for its focus on social equity, reusing underutilized spaces, creating an open space network, and public participation.

The American Planning Association (APA) is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities. APA includes a professional institute for certified planners, 47 chapters, 21 divisions, and special memberships for students. 

The APA Sustainable Communities Division's goal is to help planners engage in and collaborate on innovative approaches to emerging sustainability issues.

For More Information:

Derek Dauphin 

Senior Planner, Project Manager

Andrew Dash, AICP

Acting Director



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