ULI Colorado hosts Salon on Building Healthy Places, completes first two Building Healthy Places Workshops

Panelists at ULI Colorado's Salon on Building Healthy Places discuss links between real estate and health.

Panelists at ULI Colorado's Salon on Building Healthy Places discuss links between real estate and health.

Building Healthy Places Programs

ULI Colorado has a number of projects and efforts underway that focus on health. On June 26, ULI Colorado hosted a BHP Salon to explore connections between real estate and health.

The event, attended by approximately 60 people, included a panel discussion and a tour of the Alliance Center for Sustainable Colorado, a historic rehab that has raised the bar for the healthy workplace. The panel, moderated by Josh Radoff of YR&G, included:

  • Brad Buchanan, Executive Director, Denver Community Planning and Design;
  • Hillary Fulton, Senior Program Officer for the Colorado Health Foundation;
  • Eric K. France, Director of Population Care and Prevention Services for Kaiser Permanente Colorado; and
  • Susan Powers, Founding Partner at Urban Ventures LLC.

Two additional BHP events are planned for this fall.

Building Healthy Places Workshops

Guest Post by Michael Leccese, Executive Director, ULI Colorado

Inspired by ULI’s Building Healthy Places Initiative, and with a $10,000 grant from the ULI Foundation, ULI Colorado completed its first two BHP Workshops in June and July, 2014.

Lake Creek Village Apartments, Edwards, Colorado
Two communities provided $5,000 matches to fund the one-day workshops. The first was held in Edwards, Colorado (population 11,000), on June 27. It addressed healthy living for the 900 residents of the 30-acre Lake Creek Village Apartments (LCV). Located about 10 miles west of Vail on the Eagle River, LCV is a 30-year-old complex of garden apartments. It was originally built as market-rate housing for ski industry employees (who are largely white, male, and single) and has evolved into affordable housing for the working Hispanic community, who experience higher rates of health problems compared to the general Eagle County population.

EdwardsCOWhen Eagle County Housing Authority acquired LCV this year, the opportunity arose to improve active living and healthy food for residents, who include 400+ children under 18. Currently kids and adults have nowhere to play soccer, ride bikes, or just play outside. The site is separated from downtown Edwards (and its markets and services) by a railroad, poor road connectivity, and a sewage treatment plan.

Working with the Housing Authority and Eagle County Health, ULI Colorado recruited a panel of seven volunteers to work with the community. The ULI volunteer panelists included two leading affordable housing developers, three architects, an expert on community gardens and health programs, a property manager for mixed-income multifamily housing, and a general contractor.

The panel sketched plans for a new pathway circulation system, traffic calming, a mini-soccer field, bike track, playgrounds, community garden, riverside observation platform, improved lighting, trailheads to open space, and more. Their framework plan breaks the 30 acres into four neighborhoods each identified with a recreational feature or community health amenity. The Housing Authority plans to fund at least some of these improvements in the next year.

Elyria-Swansea neighborhood, Denver, Colorado

On July 30, ULI Colorado held a second workshop at 40th and Colorado in Denver’s historic Elyria-Swansea neighborhood about four miles from downtown. The birthplace of railroads in Colorado, the neighborhood comprises a sometimes uncomfortable mix of cottages, rail lines, silos, and heavy and light industry.

Elyria-Swansea_DenverMany local businesses are thriving. Yet abandoned and blighted properties, poor connectivity, and a “food desert” are issues for the neighborhood’s 6,400 residents, who live on 200 acres of residential blocks engulfed by 1,100 acres of industrial land. Residents are largely Hispanic, low-income, and with relatively poor health indicators. The city is also interested in developing a model for a healthy industrial workplace to retain jobs being pushed out by gentrification.

The nine-member ULI panel included two industrial developers, two mixed-use developers, and a real estate market analysis, expert on public-private finance, architect, sustainability consultant, and expert on public health.

The workshop concluded with recommendations to improve street lighting, drainage, and pedestrian connectivity to schools and a commuter rail station under construction.  Recognizing that the neighborhood lacks the rooftops and demographics to attract a grocer, the panel recommended working with local produce warehouses to expand their retail presence to serve neighbors. Another key recommendation was to repurpose an abandoned railroad freight line for drainage, open space, and connectivity.

Panelists also saw the opportunity to fine-tune city zoning to encourage “clean and green” light industry while discouraging more heavy industry.

Future Workshop Opportunities

In June, the Colorado Health Foundation awarded ULI Colorado a $30,000 grant to conduct two more BHP Workshops. Starting October 7, communities may apply to receive a fully funded workshop to take place in the winter-spring of 2014-15.

ULI’s BHP committee is chaired by developer Susan Powers of Urban Ventures LLC and sustainability consultant Josh Radoff of YR&G. Past chair Brian Levitt of Nava Development helped plan the workshops.

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