Real estate development, like every other part of the U.S. economy, is starting to change, to adapt to a new, emergent order we call “sustainable.” A good example is Green Coast Enterprises, a start-up development company whose mission is, appropriately, about adaptation. Green Coast was founded by a former MIT student of mine, Will Bradshaw, and his lawyer colleague Reuben Teague (Disclosure: I’m on Green Coast’s Advisory Board). Together, they’ve got an interesting mix of skills — planning law, design and construction — and interests — social justice, climate change, community development, entrepreneurship.
What Will and Reuben are doing is essentially refashioning real estate and community development as something new, what they call “community resilience,” a species of sustainability linking social, environmental and economic issues in one business model grounded in one development vision — resilient communities whose people, buildings and economies can adapt to and withstand natural disasters and social challenges of all sorts in the Post-Katrina, Climate Change Age.
And what better place to rebuild a city by reimagining an industry than New Orleans, a place where nature, class, race and commerce have always mingled in innovative, if idiosyncratic, ways, a few feet below sea level.
For more on New Orleans peculiar development history, listen to this September 2005 podcast from Radio Open Source, a few days into Katrina’s aftermath. Washington Post reporter Joel Garreau, New Orleans developer Pres Kabacoff and I discussed the prospect of rebuilding NO, the good, the bad and the ugly.
A pioneer in social entrepreneurship and sustainability, William Shutkin is the inaugural Chair in Sustainable Development at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder. He also serves as the Interim Executive Director of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, a Partner of the Innovation Network for Communities and a Research Affiliate at MIT. In his spare time, he enjoys hanging out with his wife and two kids tele-skiing, flyfishing and gazing at trees.