On February 9th, the City of Portland had the unique honor of hosting Japan’s 6th annual International Forum on the Future City Initiative (FCI) – the first time this forum was held outside Asia. High-level Cabinet officers, municipal leaders, and technology and real estate development firms representing different districts and projects throughout Japan shared their experiences and engaged with Portland industry members in a fruitful exchange of lessons learned regarding revitalization methods. Leland Consulting Group Analyst, Kate Washington, attended this event in continuation of her involvement over the past four years with the Pearl District Neighborhood Association and the Portland Development Commission.
The FCI, launched in 2011 in the wake of the 3/11 great eastern Japan earthquake and tsunami, allows towns and cities to reimagine the role of government in revitalizing and rebuilding communities. Even before the tsunami, Japan struggled with a rapidly aging population and the migration of young, educated people to Tokyo. In a way, Japan is already experiencing what many urbanized countries will soon encounter. The takeaway lessons from these innovating towns and cities will have both local and global application. FCI towns and cities focus their innovations around sustainability, economic revitalization and real estate development in order to facilitate a transition to a sustainable society. For example, the City of Shimokawa committed to not using concrete or steel in future construction (to bolster a demand for sustainable building material and reduce the city’s carbon footprint), the City of Toyama is using a strategy similar to Oregon Metro’s “centers and corridors” to create more compact development, bringing more people closer to central resources, and the City of Higashi Matsushima, which was devastated by the tsunami, recycled all its disaster waste by sorting it rather than simply burning it, thus reducing negative environmental impacts. All cities participating in Japan’s FCI have a commitment to future generations, to sustainability, and to public engagement. These values along with expertise in revitalizing downtowns, strengthening communities, enabling sustainability and livability, and making cities work are the foundation of Leland Consulting Group’s work and we are inspired by the commitment shown by these Japanese governments.