The Bridge: An Embodiment of EcoDistricts

One of the main missions of The Bridge is to set people up for success who normally wouldn’t have the opportunity simply because they didn’t have the basic means to get there- nutritious food, a safe home, a useful education, love and support, everything a person needs to be set up for a successful life can be found at The Bridge. I want to reach the point where everyone reaches self-actualization. Where everyone gets to the point that they can give back. By setting people up with their basic needs, it allows them to focus on becoming the best version of themselves.” 

[Photo: courtesy The Bridge/Murray Associates]

 

That’s the voice of The Bridge’s CEO and Founder, Garry Gilliam. Garry, a former NFL football player-turned real estate developer has always been vocal that design and development decisions will be guided by that mission. Garry often references specific opportunities from his history that have allowed him to reach the point of launching The Bridge, which provides support and facilitation for others to reach the same potential. In workshops, Garry’s first question is always, “How can we do better? How can we provide more?” instead of “What will that cost?” 

 

The Bridge is a physical manifestation of this more widely applicable concept and is focused on redeveloping old properties into ‘Eco-Villages,’ integrating elements of Work, Eat, Live, Learn, and Play (WELLP, as they call it) for communities that may not otherwise have those resources. The Bridge’s mission to span the tide between the rich and the poor, the informed and the untaught, the entrepreneur, and the everyday citizen is demonstrated in every element of the physical design and element of operations. 

[Image: courtesy The Bridge/Murray Associates]

 

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the site of The Bridge’s pilot location – and hometown of Gilliam – checks all of the boxes for a community in need of basic resources, much fewer opportunities to reach self-actualization. The development site was previously the city’s iconic catholic high school. Without much demolition or additional construction, the existing building is the perfect home for affordable housing units, co-working spaces, workshops and maker spaces, educational labs, and even a medical clinic. The surrounding site and existing, yet overgrown, football field will support two new buildings that will house vertical agriculture and a recreational facility with a focus on universal design, integrating ‘play’ options for people with all physical and mental abilities. 

[Image: courtesy The Bridge/Murray Associates]

 

In January of 2020, I joined the team to lead the Sustainability strategy, but clearly, much of my job had been done for me. As the conceptual design evolved and we worked through several sustainability charrettes, the sustainability vision became clear: 

Our sustainability strategy is guided by the ultimate objective to foster an equitable closed-loop community that solves energy, water, waste, and carbon challenges. To do so, we redefine healthy living, we leverage a holistic approach to transparent education, and we elevate mission-driven business practices.

 

It does not require a visit to Harrisburg to realize that the community is in need. It does not take a traditional real estate developer to provide resources that promote generational wealth. And it does not require an EcoDistricts AP to realize that The Bridge holds a special potential to embody the Imperatives. In every move, The Bridge takes action towards Equity, Resilience, and Climate Protection with explicit intention. Though I am now a part of this magnetic team, I am continuously astonished by their undying energy to span the tide. 

 

As the team ends every meeting: Let’s Build!

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