Conference to promote compact, sustainable, community-minded town development

Conference to promote compact, sustainable, community-minded town development

A Florida-based institute promoting “New Urbanism” – a movement calling for the development of towns that are small, environmentally-sound and diverse – is hosting a neighborhood development conference Aug. 16-18 in Portland, Oregon, a city long recognized for its dedication to environmentalism and sustainability practices.

“Traditional Neighborhood Development on the West Coast: Building Great Communities” is hosted by the Seaside Institute, a civic-minded non-profit organization established in 1982 and formed after the development of Seaside, a town located in the panhandle region of Florida and designed by Robert Davis in 1981.

The town has come to exemplify “New Urbanism,” a return to traditional connective neighborhood development that aims to counter the alienation spawned by suburban sprawl.

According to, “New Urbanism promotes the creation and restoration of diverse, walkable, compact, vibrant, mixed-use communities composed of the same components as conventional development, but assembled in a more integrated fashion, in the form of complete communities.”

The conference will bring together architects, engineers and environmentalists who will offer sessions on design, planning, green building, legal issues, and marketing. There will also be an in-depth examination of the town of Seabrook, located in Pacific Beach in Washington State. (see: The conference will blend both theory and practice, says Leslie Pickel, managing director.

“[The conference] will focus on the basic principle of traditional town development and design on the West Coast,” says Leslie Pickel, managing director, who notes that the institute, which gives out an annual planning award (The Seaside Prize), proffered one to Portland in 1995.

Seaside Institute, which Pickel labels a civic-minded organization oriented towards building community in cities and towns, holds six conferences and numerous workshops on New Urbanism every year, as well conducting arts events.

Attendance at the conferences usually ranges from 75 to 150 people, says Pickel. This intimacy is beneficial for attendees, she adds.

“It’s important because the participants get a chance to interact with the speakers one-on-one,” she says.

The conference will also focus on how to re-build and re-design dying industrial centres and breath new life back into the suburbs, says Pickel.

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