New downtown district hopes to improve Portland's energy efficiency

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PORTLAND — Vin Veroneau said he is not quite sure what to expect of the new Portland 2030 District, but is eager to see how it can affect his bottom line and the world around him.

“Hopefully, it gives us a competitive advantage and is good for the environment,” Veroneau said Oct. 18 about the new initiative announced Oct. 13 by the Greater Portland Council of Governments.

Veroneau is president and CEO of J.B. Brown & Sons, which develops and manages commercial and residential properties throughout the Portland area.

The Portland 2030 District is part of a broader continental initiative involving 13 U.S. cities, including Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and Dallas, as well as Toronto, Canada.

“This project gives property owners, managers and developers tools to save resources and money,” GPCOG Exective Director Kristina Egan said in a press release. 

The goals of the new district are to reduce energy and emissions in existing buildings and construction, while also promoting alternative transportation to serve the district.

Simpler approaches to meet goals include installing more efficient lighting, adding charging stations for electric vehicles and improved windows.

The Portland 2030 District will host events to educate builders and owners on methods to reduce energy and water consumption, look for ways to reduce the number of people driving and parking in the district and make utility data more available.

The Portland 2030 District also looks to set up a hub of information on reaching sustainability goals, including best practices, local vendors, financing options and case studies on making buildings more efficient.

J.B. Brown was joined by Avesta Housing, the Portland Housing Authority, real estate firm CBRE Boulos, Paragon Management and the Press Hotel. According to the district’s website, more than 1 million square feet of space has been committed to the district.

Paragon President Drew Swenson said being part of the larger initiative could lead to good results.

“We can follow in their footsteps to reduce energy and water consumption, as well as transportation emissions from some of the largest buildings on the Peninsula in Portland and collectively reduce emissions 50 percent by 2030,” he said.

Veroneau said J.B. Brown’s track record on ownership helps make participation attractive.

“The backdrop being all these things have to make economic sense,” he said. “We are long-term owners, we hold buildings for decades, some for more than a century.”

Establishing the Portland 2030 District occurs as city councilors will hold a Nov. 7 public hearing and vote on an amendment to City Code Chapter 6 to require owners of commercial buildings of more than 20,000 square feet or residential buildings of 50 or more units to report annual data on energy and water consumption.

The amendment was sponsored by Councilor Jon Hinck, and would also require the city to report the same data on municipal buildings of 5,000 square feet or larger.

All data would be publicly available and updated annually, and measured against the internet benchmarking tool developed by the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection.

By Dec. 31, 2020, city staff would be required to review data on the properties affected and possibly recommend ordinance amendments to improve energy efficiency and water use.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Vin Veroneau, CEO of J.B. Brown & Sons, which is constructing apartments at York and High streets, said being part of the Portland 2030 District to promote sustainability in development construction and operations could also have economic benefits.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.