innovative cities portland 3

Portland, Ore., has been ahead of the innovation curve for a long time. The city created a Bicycle Plan in 1973; turned a freeway into a riverfront park in 1978 and built a light rail (instead of a new highway) in 1986. Today, it has the highest percent of bicycle commuters, over 300 miles of urban trails and one of the best park systems in the country.

Public-private partnerships have thrived, creating "eco-districts" and green development projects around the city. Its downtown is composed almost entirely of LEED-certified buildings and the short blocks (200 feet x 200 feet) make the city more walkable and encourage small business growth.

Several years ago, Portland developed an aggressive export plan to grow its industry and boost the local economy. The We Build Green Cities initiative grew out of that and aims to export what Portland is best known for: its sustainability and sense of place. Through that program, three Portland firms have signed contracts to create an ecodistrict in Japan. (Photo: Jordan Siemens/Getty Images Prestige) --A.R.

Is your city the next Portlandia?

First published October 7, 2014: 1:15 AM ET