March 15, 2017

The case for ripping up pavement to create healthier communities

The nonprofit Depave transforms concrete jungles into welcoming green spaces

Depave volunteers work on beautifying the Human Solutions family center in Portland, Oregon. Photo courtesy of Depave


Meet the finalists for The Atlantic’s Renewal Awards, underwritten by Allstate. These individuals are the forces behind the 25 nonprofits competing for $100,000 in grant money. Five winners will be announced March 30 at The Renewal Summit in Washington, on, and here, on The Renewal Project.

Eric Rosewall began his work with Depave as the “resident photographer and branding guru.” Now he’s the executive director of the nonprofit that helps to transform overly-paved areas into vibrant community spaces.

Meet Eric and follow Depave on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

This questionnaire has been edited for length and clarity.

Describe your community:

Depave works with willing landowners and neighborhood groups at schools, communities of faith, and social service organizations to transform lifeless paved places in under-greened areas into thriving community green spaces in which to live, learn, and play. Depave creates green spaces in the Portland, Oregon, metro region and trains organizations around the country in our radical model for community engagement in urban greening.

What inspired you to do this work?

Getting to be a part of making such a visible and meaningful change to the city was what initially interested me in getting involved with Depave. The connections that depaving projects create among different communities and getting to work with so many awesome people to make this positive change is what has kept me at it.

What ways are you helping to make your community thrive?

Depave’s green space projects connect neighborhoods back to nature and people to each other. Our unique approach to transformative placemaking helps build stronger communities.

What do you love about your community?

Our volunteers, they are so amazing and dedicated; we definitely couldn’t do what we do without them.

What’s one thing you want outsiders to know about your community?

Depaving is way easier than it looks—it’s all about team work!

What leader or leaders inspired you?

​​Barack Obama. Cezar Chavez. Rachel Carson. Jane Jacobs.

Margaret Myers

Margaret Myers is the editor of The Renewal Project.