Hillcrest Carbon Free Community Planning

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Project Type: Research and Planning

Client: City of Saint Paul and Saint Paul Port Authority

The City of Saint Paul and Saint Paul Port Authority are currently planning for Hillcrest, the redevelopment of a 112-acre brownfield into a vibrant new community within the city’s Greater East Side. This project aligns with the Port’s mission to create jobs, expand the tax base, and advance sustainable development. LHB’s Research Studio was hired by the Port to lead sustainability visioning for the project. Our scope includes assisting with the process of obtaining certification under USGBC’s new LEED for Communities rating system as well as an even bigger challenge: creating a plan for the development to be carbon neutral.

Although many community development projects have attempted to achieve net-zero carbon goals, our research has not found any case studies where this has actually been achieved. Our work with Hillcrest is to evaluate strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from energy use in buildings, transportation, street lighting, water and wastewater, and waste management and determine a net-zero carbon scenario. This means that each year after the community is fully developed (estimated 2030), it will offset as much greenhouse gas as is emitted due to activities taking place within the community’s geographic boundaries.

In our analysis, we are considering innovative strategies such as all-electric buildings (no natural gas), aquifer thermal energy storage, rooftops maximized with photovoltaics, ground-mounted solar over parking, EV charging facilities, shared vehicles, incentives for community employees to reside within the community, and low-carbon infrastructure design. Our team is working closely with the Port to select a scenario that not only achieves their carbon goals but reduces economic disparities in Saint Paul, is feasible in the marketplace, and brings joy to the community.

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