This EcoDistrict Community Profiles series highlights people who are working to make our neighborhood great. For the inaugural blog post, we’d like to introduce the co-chairs of the EcoDistrict Steering Committee: Mike Mariano and Neelima Shah.
Mike Mariano is an architect, Capitol Hill resident, and the father of a first grader at Lowell Elementary (Go Dragons!).
Mike Mariano thinks globally and acts locally, especially when it comes to his personal and professional work around sustainability and community. As an architect and urban designer, he understands the importance of the human scale when creating and defining great places and resilient communities.
“Sustainability can’t just be about individual buildings. It needs to be about the collection of buildings and the synergy that all the people occupying those buildings bring to the community.”
After moving back to Seattle in the early 2000s, Mariano and his wife Grace Kim opened Schemata Workshop. This winter they will wrap up construction of their Capitol Hill Urban Co-Housing project, an inter-generational urban community committed to sustainable living. “We often sum up our work as the responsibility to bring a little more ‘hygge’ to our community.” Hygge – a Danish word with no exact translation in English – represents the feeling of belonging, contentment and quality of social experience within the built environment. It also speaks to Mariano’s values and commitment to a sense of place, quality of life and shared community.
Now with a young daughter, he enjoys experiencing the neighborhood through her eyes and building for long-term sustainability. “Commit to your neighborhood – its locally owned shops, services, schools and culture. We can do all this while providing safe places to walk, bike, play, work and live.”
Mariano brings this same ethos to co-chairing the EcoDistrict Steering Committee, where he emphasizes strengthening community connections, building collective action and advancing a holistic vision. “It’s about thinking long-term, especially for the people that make our neighborhood what it is—and who are at risk of displacement.” Mariano is especially interested in housing affordability and how to provide it in innovative and creative ways, like co-housing.
Neelima Shah is a human rights and environment advocate, lifelong vegetarian, mom, and program manager at the Bullitt Foundation.
Neelima Shah moved to Seattle for a UW master’s program in the early 2000s and never left. She finds peace and calm through hiking, her yoga practice and by spending time with friends, her husband Scott, her four legged daughter Lucca, and her two legged daughter Aria.
As the Program Officer for Urban Ecology at the Bullitt Foundation, Shah leverages Foundation funding to promote responsible human activities and sustainable communities. “Addressing huge issues like climate change can be overwhelming, but I think one of the key strategies and opportunities for both people and the planet lies within our cities—we need to foster dense, livable and sustainable urban environments.”
Shah was an early champion of the EcoDistrict model as it emerged in Portland and helped bring the idea to Capitol Hill.
“People care about their neighborhoods—it’s a scale at which everyday people can take tangible action and see progress.”
The EcoDistrict model provides a framework for collective action and the ability to test solutions at the neighborhood scale. Shah believes the EcoDistrict can serve as a model and inspiration for other neighborhoods. Ultimately, she says, it’s about bringing people together to create meaningful change.“We’re working at the intersection of human and environmental well-being and that is why we will be successful.”