The shores of Lake Erie were lined with people, all looking out for a glimpse of the Tall Ships. It’s a yearly occurrence that attracts residents and onlookers from around the region, giving the whole town an economic jolt.
The ships’ visit are a constant in a city that is rapidly changing, both in infrastructure and climate. Just this past summer, Lake Erie’s water level broke its own record height and Erie has become the eighth fastest warming city in the United States.
“We’re working really hard to control the amount of energy that we use, and reducing it as much as possible,” Erie Mayor Joe Schember said. “It’s important that we move quickly to address these issues.”
In 2018, Mayor Schember and Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper engaged GBA to bring the 2030 District initiative to the city. In fact, the City and County were among Erie’s first official 2030 District Property Partners.
Just recently, this effort came full circle as the Erie community fulfilled the official 2030 District requirements and has filed for recognition as an Established 2030 District.
“Joining the 2030 Districts gives us a clear direction and quantifiable objectives to meet,” Mayor Schember added.
One of the first projects Erie worked on to improve sustainability was surveying buildings throughout the county to learn how they could optimize the energy and water systems already in use.
The result? A 1-million-gallon reduction in water usage and an over $250,000 savings on the city’s utility bill.
“It’s really important that we all make sustainability the critical priority, especially in this community,” Mrs. Dahlkemper added. “So, not only are we conserving energy and water, but we’re being much more fiscally responsible to our taxpayers.”
Even before the 2030 District began, the city had been executing its own sustainability initiatives, acquiring its first LEED Gold certified building, the Erie Art Museum, in 2014. Since then, they have remained committed to improvements in walkability, public transportation, building design, and infrastructure.
The city’s first bike lane has been installed, and four more are being developed to improve alternative modes of transportation. Erie has also installed solar arrays throughout the county and are planning on expanding that grid to lessen its energy burden.
The community is also working on smaller improvements, like replacing lighting throughout their eight Flagship Opportunity Zones. These zones, created by the federal government to attract investment in low-income areas, will save roughly $35,000 each year by using LED bulbs instead of traditional streetlights.
The cost savings are then passed back into the opportunity zones to install things like high-speed Wi-Fi, making the areas even more attractive to investors while improving the lives of residents in the areas.
“We all have a part to play in this,” Mrs. Dahlkemper added. “We all want to leave our community and environment better off for our children so that they have a better future here in Erie.”
The Erie Community is the 2019 recipient of the Beacon Award. Join us at GBA’s Emerald Evening Gala on September 12 as we celebrate 5 people and projects transforming Western Pennsylvania and inaugurate Pittsburgh’s International Center for Excellence.