Little Tokyo and Talbot Norfolk Triangle become leaders for urban sustainability


This is a guest post by my colleague Marissa Ramirez

Updated  7/2/14: added resource links

The Little Tokyo community of Los Angeles and the Talbot Norfolk Triangle neighborhood in Boston are joining other North American cities to lead a new effort in district-scale sustainability and urban revitalization. 

Last week, Little Tokyo and Talbot Norfolk Triangle announced their participation in Target Cities, a 2-year commitment of seven development projects across five North American cities designed to create and implement replicable models for sustainable redevelopment.

EcoDistricts is the non-profit organization behind the Target Cities that announced the new partnership as a commitment at CGI America, a program of the Clinton Global Initiative.  NRDC is honored and proud to be a partner in this exciting work in both of these neighborhoods as they become leaders of green urban redevelopment for others to replicate.  In addition, we are pleased to be contributing strategic advice to this effort in these Target Cities as an Implementation Partner for EcoDistricts.

As part of our Green Neighborhoods initiative, our team at NRDC worked closely with local leaders and community-based organizations in both of these neighborhoods.  Our work is collaborative and with the objective to provide ideas and tools for older and disinvested communities to restore vitality in their own neighborhoods.  These ideas are based on LEED for Neighborhood Development and help guide the neighborhoods in identifying environmental strengths and opportunities for improvement. 

Little Tokyo is now perfectly positioned to become a Cultural Ecodistrict.  Their design plan for the neighborhood highlights the neighborhood’s rich Japanese-American History and commitment to sustainability.  The community, led by the Little Tokyo Service Center and the Little Tokyo Community Council, has completed extensive community visioning and planning.  They were assisted by several partners including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Los Angeles Local Initiatives Support Corporation and Enterprise Community Partners along with the design guidance of Mithun.  As part of Target Cities, the Little Tokyo Cultural Ecodistrict will work together with the City of Los Angeles to incorporate the central principles of the EcoDistricts’ four-step protocol that guides the projects through district organization and governance, assessment, implementation, and monitoring.  The new light rail station adjacent to Little Tokyo and the Downtown arts district is poised to become a model project highlighting state-of-the-art renewable energy and water management, green building retrofits as well as intergenerational values and community art.



In Boston, the Talbot Norfolk Triangle neighborhood is getting noticed as the first Eco-Innovation District in the city.  The Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation and Talbot Norfolk Triangle Neighbors United have been working together to create a new model for green and equitable development in low-income areas.  The neighbors and community leaders in TNT have a long-term commitment to establishing improved quality of life for its residents.  Their impressive community vision includes transforming vacant properties into parks and greenspaces as well as deep energy retrofits and local energy generation.  Recently, the opening of the new Talbot Avenue station has become the basis for energy efficient TOD.  The community has a long tradition of collaboration including their partnership with NRDC, Boston LISC and designers from Goody Clancy to perform a LEED-ND sustainability analysis of the neighborhood.  Their participation in EcoDistricts will continue to move forward these efforts to implement community-based, district-scale sustainability and equity.




At NRDC, we strongly believe that the neighborhood is an important place to bring positive improvements for the environment, social equity, the economy, and most importantly, for people.  Little Tokyo and Talbot Norfolk Triangle together with the EcoDistricts Target Cities program are great examples of the growing movement of innovation and leadership in urban redevelopment at the neighborhood scale.  We are excited to participate as strategic partners to the Target Cities project teams, helping build governance models that will affect political and technical change, perform assessments and goal setting tasks, and apply our expertise to deliver a more profound and lasting impact. As an Implementation Partner to EcoDistricts, NRDC will be ready to support these communities as well as help test and refine the emerging EcoDistricts Protocol.  We believe this approach will directly help disinvested areas and build and test innovative practices for neighborhoods and municipalities to emulate.

Kaid Benfield has written in depth about Little Tokyo on his blog here:

Along with a post written jointly with both Kaid and Thomas Yee, Little Tokyo Service Center’s Planning Director:

Learn more about Talbot Norfolk Triangle in Kaid’s multi-part series on Codman Square’s extensive revitalization efforts:

Marissa Ramirez is a colleague working on sustainability and Green Neighborhoods projects across the country.