Building Healthy Places

Ponce City Market, one of several private developments benefiting from proximity to the Atlanta BeltLine.
Ponce City Market, one of several private developments benefiting from proximity to the Atlanta BeltLine.

ULI’s Building Healthy Places (BHP) Initiative leverages the power of the Institute’s global networks to shape projects and places in ways that improve the health of people and communities. Through publications, forums, and joint activities with district and national councils, the initiative articulates the connection between the built environment and human health while sharing best practices on creating healthier places—those that are designed, built, and programmed to support the physical, mental, and social well-being of those who live, work, and play in them. In FY 2016, the initiative received generous support from the Colorado Health Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and the ULI Foundation.

In FY 2016, the BHP Initiative undertook an ambitious program of work that continued to support the role of real estate and land use professionals in creating environments that facilitate healthy lifestyles. Through amenities that provide access to physical activity such as trails or playgrounds and healthy food choices such as farmer’s markets; land use patterns that promote walking and cycling for everyday mobility; and building materials that result in superior indoor air and water quality, ULI members are empowered by the BHP Initiative to make the healthy choice the easy choice for those who inhabit their projects.

Active Transportation and Real Estate: The Next Frontier

Published in FY 2016, Active Transportation and Real Estate: The Next Frontier showcases the growing synergy between private real estate development and public investments in bikeways and walking trails. So-called trail-oriented communities are fetching premiums while making further life-extending investments in trails, bikeways, and other active transportation infrastructure. (Learn more about this in Priorities – Shaping Cities & Regions)

Healthy Corridors Project 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke at a healthy corridors event held by ULI Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke at a healthy corridors event held by ULI Los Angeles.

Launched in FY 2015, the ULI Healthy Corridors Project continues as a partnership among the BHP Initiative, the Rose Center for Public Leadership, and four district councils (ULI Colorado, ULI Idaho, ULI Los Angeles, and ULI Nashville) to develop and refine approaches to creating holistically healthy corridors. Commercial corridors were selected in four cities—Denver, Boise, Los Angeles, and Nashville—as demonstration sites for the project, which identifies strategies for transforming corridors from automobile-oriented throughways to people-oriented destinations that benefit surrounding communities.

While the project aims to spur real change along each demonstration corridor, the overarching goal is to further understanding of and build a community of practice around effective approaches to designing and creating healthy corridors, which can be replicated in cities around the world.

In FY 2016, a national working group composed of transportation, real estate, and public health experts visited with each of the four demonstration sites and worked closely with local leadership teams from each district council to develop an initial set of recommendations for each corridor. These recommendations as well as best practices for healthy corridor development are available in Building Healthy Corridors: Transforming Urban and Suburban Arterials into Thriving Places, a comprehensive report published in FY 2017.

Creative Placemaking

Creative placemaking describes a comprehensive community development approach that intentionally embeds arts, culture, and community-engaged design into strategies to revitalize and stabilize communities. Within the context of the BHP Initiative, arts and culture are viewed as essential elements to creating holistically healthy neighborhoods and cities. In FY 2016, the BHP Initiative received funding from the Kresge Foundation to develop a body of knowledge on creative placemaking to distribute widely among ULI member and partner networks and to embed creative placemaking strategies into ULI programs.

Cultivating Development, a new ULI report, identifies trends and opportunities at the intersection of food and real estate.

Through the work of Juanita Hardy, a ULI senior visiting fellow, and other activities, the BHP Initiative will curate examples and develop best practices to guide the use of arts and culture as placemaking tools. Further work will be undertaken to apply creative placemaking approaches to transform soulless commercial corridors into vibrant destinations and enhance the health of surrounding communities.

Food and Real Estate Program

The St. Roch Market in New Orleans was one of the food-focused projects attendees visited during the forum.
The St. Roch Market in New Orleans was one of the food-focused projects that attendees visited during the forum.

Food is emerging as a critical element of placemaking and development around the world. More than ever before, consumers are eager to know how their food is produced and where it comes from. Locally grown food is considered a hallmark of authenticity, a quality that consumers are increasingly seeking at home, at work, and on vacation. Healthy food access has become central to the definition of a healthy place as food deserts in underserved communities receive new attention.

These trends have given rise to innovative food destinations—farm-to-table restaurants, food halls, pop-up cafés, and farmers markets—new residential communities centered around sustainable food production and farming, and a growing use of community gardens and food-focused businesses as revitalization tools for urban neighborhoods.

In FY 2016, the BHP Initiative and the ULI Center for Sustainability sponsored the Food and Real Estate: Trends and Opportunities Forum Series that brought together real estate developers, property owners, food entrepreneurs, and sustainable food experts to discuss the intersection of food, sustainability, and real estate. Held in New Orleans and in New York’s Hudson Valley, the forums highlighted the role of food in creating places that retain their long-term value while solving aspects of the sustainability challenge and removing barriers to health. Findings from the forums are now available in a report, Cultivating Development: Trends and Opportunities at the Intersection of Food and Real Estate, published in FY 2017. bayarea-in-2015

Bay Area in 2015/Colorado in 2015

As a follow-up to America in 2015, a survey published by the BHP Initiative and the ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing on nationwide attitudes and preferences regarding housing, transportation, and community design, two reports that focused on regional submarkets were published in FY 2016. Bay Area in 2015 and Colorado in 2015 surveyed adults ranging in age and income in these two high-growth/high-cost markets to understand prevailing attitudes about each region’s housing, transportation, and quality of life. Two salient, health-related findings were made in each survey: A striking number of Coloradans report living in places that lack usable outdoor spaces for physical activity while contending with barriers to healthy lifestyles; and in the Bay Area, crime and traffic prevent low-income communities from engaging in physical activities outdoors.

Learn more about the ULI Building Healthy Places Initiative