Creating a resilient, prosperous and sustainable community

The Oberlin Project's intention is to integrate these commitments in a way that each of the parts reinforces the prosperity, resilience, and health of the larger community. To that end we have organized the community into working teams including economic development, education, energy, policy, agriculture, community, and data collection and analysis.

  • Develop a 13-acre Green Arts District at the U.S. Green Building Council Platinum level as a driver for community economic revitalization. The district will include restoration of the Allen Memorial Art Museum (completed) and Hall Auditorium along with a new hotel and restaurant, business complex, and, possibly, a culinary school, jazz club, conference center, and center for innovation and ecological design. The major goals in the redevelopment of the district are to create local employment, income growth, and community development as well as to construct a streetscape that will serve as an exciting gateway to the downtown and to the college. In the process, we will set a new benchmark for community-scale green development;
  • Create new business ventures in energy efficiency and solar deployment, food and agriculture, and the sustainable use of local resources. In the transition to carbon-neutral sustainability, we propose a transformation of the local economy that involves creating and expanding locally owned businesses, fostering a prosperous downtown economy, and encouraging widespread ownership of new enterprises to spread wealth throughout the city while increasing our economic and financial resilience;
  • Shift the city and college to renewable energy sources, radically improve efficiency, sharply reduce our carbon emissions, and improve our economy in the process. We presently spend roughly $15 million each year on electricity and natural gas???twice as much as we would need to spend if we were as efficient as is now economically advantageous and technologically feasible. We propose to reduce energy use by improving efficiency (saving millions of dollars), building a local renewable-energy economy that creates jobs and ownership, and growing the local economy while buffering Oberlin from rising energy prices and sudden cost spikes;
  • Establish relationships with local land owners to conserve 20,000 acres of green space for agriculture and forestry in the five-county region aound Oberlin to create a robust local foods economy to meet approximately 70% of our consumption.  Presently, only a minuscule fraction of what we eat is grown locally. As with local energy consumption, money unnecessarily flows out of the community, enriching others. We propose to expand the market for locally grown foods and improve the local farm economy, create new employment opportunities in farming (including summer jobs for teens) and food processing, while improving the taste and nutritional quality of food we eat;
  • Create an educational alliance between the college, the Oberlin Schools, Lorain County Joint Vocational School, and Lorain County Community College focused on education appropriate to issues of sustainability. The transition to sustainability and a more resilient economy poses large challenges to educators at all levels. What does the rising generation need to know to live well and purposefully in the decades ahead? How should they learn to think in terms of systems and interrelatedness and extend their time horizon? Such questions are pertinent to education at all levels and all educational institutions. In the search for answers and educational methods appropriate to our challenges, we intend to help teachers and faculty members break out of the proverbial silos within educational institutions and help institutions cooperate to transcend those that separate different kinds of educational institutions;
  • Replicate the project at varying scales and in different regions through a national network of diverse communities and organizations (The National Sustainable Communities Coalition) with similar goals. To this goal we are collaborating with other projects and communities across the United States that are taking a similar approach by integrating food, agriculture, energy, sustainable economic development, education, public policy, community engagement, health, and transportation.


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