Celebrating Those Who Build and Enhance Our Communities

March 5, 2018

A Note from Christopher Wierzbicki, Executive Director of Futurewise:

A week from today on March 13th, Futurewise staff, board members, partners, supporters and friends will gather together at the Westin to bestow the 2018 Livable Communities Awards.  More importantly, we’ll celebrate the wonderful organizations and people who have earned them. 

These exceptional community partners are using innovative policies and strategies to protect our natural resources, create affordable housing and equal access, promote transit-oriented development, and encourage a healthy and livable Washington for all.  All of them have made significant contributions to Washington, making our state a more healthy, sustainable and nourishing place to live.  It is Futurewise’ great pleasure to honor them.

Here’s an appreciative look at the recipients of our awards (in alphabetical order) and the meaningful work they do.  We hope you’ll join us next Tuesday to hear more about them, and to enjoy and learn from their achievements.


Capitol Hill Renters’ Initiative

Equity and Environment Award

Across Seattle, housing affordability and community development are of prime concern.  Yet in Capitol Hill -where renters make up 80% of the population – renters lack a voice in the decision-making process.  The Renter’s Initiative is committed to addressing the “…neighborhood’s affordability and mobility challenges and advancing the voice of renters in City Hall. With support from Capitol Hill Housing staff, Renter Initiative members receive the training and resources required to take action on policy issues…connect each other with community partners, and host opportunities to engage with City Officials.”  Today their focus is on statewide tenant’ rights, passing mandatory housing affordability zoning changes, and reducing transit costs for low income residents.

Duwamish Infrastructure Restoration Training (DIRT) Corps

Equity and Environment Award

Over 100 years of development and pollution left most of the original Duwamish watershed devoid of life and wetland function. Human health continues to suffer greatly as well, with residents’ life expectancy over 13 years shorter than more affluent zip codes in Seattle due to cumulative health impacts. DIRT Corps provides support to community groups, non-profits and other local government clients who seek to restore and maintain forgotten spaces in the watershed, and beyond. In 2015, the DIRT Corps was established in South Seattle as a community partnership program to provide on-the-job training for adult workers, specifically encouraging women, people of color, LGBT, and veterans to enroll. The program provides hands-on training with a focus on rain garden and cistern design/build, operations and maintenance, vegetation management, and ecological restoration.”

Olympia Downtown Strategy & HOME Fund 

Smart Growth and Transportation Award

The Olympia Downtown Strategy (DTS) is not your average urban smartgrowth initiative.  While serving as a regional hub in the South Sound, downtown Olympia faces a number of important issues, such as “…development uncertainties related to sea level rise and site contamination, a continuing need for inclusive residential opportunities, a strong interest in maintaining and growing a vibrant business and retail environment, and the increasingly critical need to address homelessness and street dependency. The DTS is the City’s effort to address these concerns with a clear set of actions to sustain and improve Downtown for its residents, workers, businesses, and visitors.”  Together with the HOME Fund – a voter-funded initiative that just passed on February 13th that aims to build 350 affordable homes in 10 years – Olympia is taking positive steps to address the housing, environmental and economic development challenges of their next century.

Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) Active Living & Active Transportation Program 

Local Government Excellence

Active transportation is a means of getting around that is powered by human energy, primarily walking and bicycling. While also referred to as non-motorized transportation, active transportation is a positive statement that expresses the key connection between healthy, active living and our transportation choices.  Since 2007, SRHD has been working to educate, advocate and build community leadership around active transportation issues, and their work has resulted in some great success stories.  In addition to working closely to shape the decisions made by regional policy-makers on issues such as the Spokane Master Pedestrian Plan Committee, they have been integral to the success of Spokane’s complete streets policy and bicycle plan, and have developed a program for rural complete streets education.

Tennant Trailhead Park Project (North Bend, WA)

Excellence in Protecting Natural Resource Areas

All healthy communities – particularly those in growing urban areas - need a balanced mix of opportunities for enjoying the outdoors.  In 2017, the City of North Bend – in partnership with Si View Metropolitan Park District and King County - balanced their community’s access to the outdoors by purchasing 32 acres of mature forests, wetlands, creeks and steep topography along the Mountains to Sound Scenic Byway of Interstate 90.  North Bend residents, and others from the region, will be able to enjoy this community park that will include hiking and biking trails, and a King County regional trailhead to over 100,000 acres of public land and environmental education opportunities.  While growth is a prime concern in North Bend, this project will provide community benefits for new and existing residents as population density increases, and ensure that development is prevented from harming critical environmental areas.

Ali Modarres, UW Tacoma Professor and Leader of the South Sound Alliance 

2018 Community Champion

There are few land-use and transportation leaders in Pierce County who have not worked with or been influenced by the work of Ali Modarres.  Ali is the Director of Urban Studies at University of Washington Tacoma, and is a geographer and landscape architect, specializing in urban planning and policy. He has written extensively about social geography, transportation planning, and urban development issues in American cities, and is the founder of The South Sound Alliance (SSA) - a leadership council consisting of Pierce and South King County cities and towns.  Together with his leadership, public and private organizations are pursuing data-driven collaborative strategies leading to healthier communities, an improved environment, and an innovative and thriving economy in the Pierce County region.