Environmental sustainability and green buildings have been longstanding interests in Charles Lewis’ nonprofit career. While working at Ethos Music Center, Charles led the ambitious, community-driven green renovation of Ethos’ headquarters in inner North Portland. With support from the prestigious and ultra competitive Kresge Foundation’s Green Building Grant Program, Charles renovated a once boarded up and abandoned property into one of the most ecofriendly music schools in the country. A few of the numerous green components included an 8.39 KW solar panel system, an ecoroof, rainwater cisterns for flushing all of the toilets year-round, on-street bike parking, 5 wind turbines that power the entire top floor of the building, and much more.
Previously, Charles had led the planning and development of the old Masonic Temple project located at 5308 N. Commercial Avenue. At the time, this project was to become the first Platinum LEED certified Historic building in the United States. Project partners included the Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership, Walsh Construction, KPFF Engineering, etc. As part of this project, Charles worked with the City of Portland to identify millions of dollars worth of New Markets Tax Credits that were intended for low income populations in underserved parts of town. As part of the project, Meyer Memorial Trust awarded Ethos Music Center a $1,000,000 Program Related Investment (PRI) in order to demonstrate strong community support.
In 2010, faced with an overflow of students and a lack of space, Ethos purchased a church located at 84 NE Killingsworth a block away from Ethos’ main headquarters. The church building had a lot of deferred maintenance and required, among many other things, a new roof. Instead of simply paying for a traditional asphalt shingled roof, Charles developed an innovative ecoroof project for the building where grant support would cover the entire cost of reroofing the building with sod — an important step in reducing the building’s environmental footprint while adding an innovative marketing component to Ethos’ building efforts. In order to maintain the sod roof (and to “Keep Portland Weird”), Charles proposed allowing goats to forage on the roof in order to keep the vegetation low. While working on the church remodel, however, Charles was able to negotiate 4 years of free use of the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center (IFCC) from the City of Portland. Even though he had secured full funding for the innovative ecoroof project from the City of Portland and the Portland Development Commission, Ethos no longer needed the extra space, so Charles and Ethos started working on selling the church to a congregation that needed a new church. In order to make the transition as smooth as possible, Ethos was able to lease the building to the African American congregation while they obtained traditional financing, helping to keep an African American presence in the church and limiting the damaging effects of gentrification. One year after Ethos began leasing the church to the new congregation, the new congregation purchased the building outright and Ethos earned a $145,000 profit that was reinvested into programming.