Improving Racial Equity Through Greener Design
For decades, Black Americans have disproportionately lived in unhealthy conditions, due in large measure to unjust policies, inequitable planning, disinvestment, and underinvestment in the built environment. Starting in the 1930s, banks and mortgage lenders marked certain neighborhoods – often Black and Latino – on maps as being uncreditworthy. Known as redlining, this process led to financial firms and real estate agents refusing loans, mortgages, and other investments to residents and prospective home buyers in these areas. As a result, Black communities often remained financially stagnant, pushed into industrial zones with poor access to public transportation and inadequate grocery stores, schools, and public buildings.
In Seattle, the Midtown neighborhood is one of the most historic Black communities in the United States. When a new mixed-use development was proposed at 23rd and Union – the historic center of the community – residents banded together to block it. Developers had already built two developments in the area with little resistance. But Midtown, with its deep history and significance for the community, was different. To design a development in collaboration with the community, the developers brought in DLR Group Principal Rico Quirindongo, AIA. “I was brought in to join the development team and bridge the gap,” said Quirindongo.
Reaching out to local residents through surveys, open houses, and meetings, Quirindongo made the community an active partner in the design.
As a case study for respectfully representing communities, learn more about this project and how green design enhances social sustainability in the American Institute of Architects Blueprint for Better campaign.