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May 27, 2021

Sustainable urban design: connecting community and nature

  • A progressive redevelopment approach is a model of sustainable development both in policy and physical design.
    Ankrom Moisan


    Located within the city of Beaverton, Oregon, the 3.94-acre Westgate site will become the heart of the city’s public life for years to come, while maintaining the natural beauty, environmental health and accessibility of the neighboring Beaverton Creek.

    Ankrom Moisan — specializing in architecture, interior design, planning and brand — led the public/private partnership between the city and private developers. In collaboration with Place Landscape Architects and UrbanLens Planning, we designed a redevelopment framework plan illustrating how to create a vibrant, transit-oriented, mixed-use, civic center within the city’s Creekside District.

    Grounded in our planning philosophy to design equitable spaces that work, we balanced deep understanding of the Westgate site’s context, history and influences with community aspirations uncovered during Creekside District outreach efforts. We consolidated these findings into the following principles to help guide the redevelopment approach: 1. Bring people in; 2. Connect existing strengths to each other and new development; 3. Plan for success over time by responding to the existing site features and surroundings; 4. Create vibrant streetscapes; 5. Establish a site identity; and 6. Make ecology and water visible.

    Images from Ankrom Moisan [enlarge]
    This design promotes “stoop culture” through elevated entries, boundary treatments and front stoop plantings.

    “Turning Grey Into Green” became our planning mantra. Our progressive redevelopment approach is a model of sustainable development both in policy and physical design, seeking to educate and illustrate a healthier approach to community design. This strategy not only improves the quality of life for residents, but also addresses wildlife and climate change by minimizing the infrastructure’s environmental impact.


    The long-term redevelopment strategy is to create a contiguous series of activity nodes — public spaces, amenities, housing, employment, commerce, recreation and creek-side activities — connected by the union of existing walking and biking paths from adjacent properties.

    Redevelopment provides an opportunity to transform the site into a true transit-oriented community that is not dependent on cars. People walking, cycling, scootering, taking the bus, riding public transit, or driving should all be able to enjoy a safe, convenient and pleasant mobility network. The Beaverton Central MAX light rail station and the Park at The Round Lofts already attracts visitors to the Westgate site via public transit. In the future, shops and community destinations will be located within walkable proximity to each other. Parking lots are being phased out and will all soon be replaced by biking and pedestrian paths.

    One of these walkable passages is the Neighborhood Loop, a pedestrian trail that will host public art and connect to Beaverton Creek. With these elements, the Loop helps establish a unique, nature-driven sense of identity for the Westgate site. Beaverton Creek is currently an under-utilized natural amenity that the redevelopment plan reinvigorates as an integral part of the Westgate site’s urban fabric. Our sustainable redevelopment model beautifies Beaverton Creek into a place for people to enjoy without disrupting its natural habitat and 100-year-old floodplain.


    Bounded by the Beaverton Creek, the Westgate redevelopment plan features pedestrian-oriented streetscapes and diverse mobility options.

    The site’s proximity to the creek is an opportunity to promote the urban ecology, resiliency and sustainability of the Creekside District. Putting water and landscape at center stage throughout the site is core to establishing a unique, sustainable identity for this community. Since the connection to Beaverton Creek can be quickly lost as you move away from it, making this body of water visible in the streetscapes’ rain gardens and art infuses extra character, reinforcing this community’s one-of-a-kind place identity.

    Water and green elements corridor throughout the development will connect places and people to a network of nature that extends the impact of Beaverton Creek. Robust native plantings, clusters of deciduous trees, stormwater planters with seating areas, street side gardens, green roofs, and the creek invite residents to safely interact with nature and create homes for wildlife. Functionally, these features also facilitate the Westgate site’s decentralized approach to stormwater treatment, which reduces environmental concerns like flooding and improves water quality. Also, they reduce the heat island effect common in urban areas by shading pavements, reflecting heat, and creating cooler microclimates.

    Our redevelopment framework plan for the Westgate site establishes a strategy for long-term success by fostering resilience amongst local people, businesses and Beaverton Creek. Carefully connected pedestrian-friendly and green public spaces harmoniously address community and environmental needs. To date, the planning and housing phases of the project have been completed, and the third phase — Center for the Arts, festival street, retail and other cultural destinations — is under construction. Eventually, the site will be home to retail, hospitality, entertainment, the Center for the Arts and market-rate housing at The Round Lofts and The Rise Central.

    Will Grimm is a design principal and leads Ankrom Moisan’s practice in urban design and strategic planning.

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