Building Healthy Places Initiative Explores the ROI of Open Space

The Institute’s Building Healthy Places Initiative (BHP), which promotes building for health and wellness, collaborated with the ULI Sustainable Development Council to publish The Case for Open Space: Why Real Estate Leaders Should Invest in Parks and Open Spaces, which highlights the benefits for developers of incorporating parks and open spaces in their projects.

“Active open spaces are proven to deliver an excellent return on investment, often supplying far more in benefits than they cost to construct,” said Elizabeth Shreeve, chairman of the Sustainable Development Council and principal at the SWA Group. “These benefits accrue to private development while effectively strengthening communities and opening opportunities for all.”

The report, supported by a gift to the ULI Foundation from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, examines five examples of exemplary privately funded open space: Hunter’s Point South in Queens, New York; Levy Park in Houston (a 2018 ULI Urban Open Space Award winner); Grand Park in Los Angeles; Guthrie Green in Tulsa; and Solaris Plaza in Vail, Colorado.

Each demonstrates how partnerships, shared funding models, and local engagement have allowed developers to play a role in creating parks that provide significant community benefits. These benefits include increased buy-in from influential stakeholders such as public officials and investors, faster zoning approvals, the ability to capture strong market demand for parks and open space, and new sources of revenue.

The report is an example of ongoing efforts by the BHP Initiative to leverage the power of ULI’s global member networks to shape projects and places in ways that improve the health of people and communities. BHP worked with Workforce and Affordable Housing Council members on a similar effort, Healthy Housing for All: How Affordable Housing Is Leading the Way, which identifies lessons for the broader housing marketplace from health-oriented affordable housing.

  • “When undertaken thoughtfully, the creation of privately owned or operated, community-accessible open spaces can provide equitable access to resources, strengthen communities, reduce execution risk, and contribute to a solid bottom line for real estate investment.”

    – Elizabeth Shreeve, chairman of ULI’s Sustainable Development Council

Another BHP report published in FY 2019, Blind Spots: How Unhealthy Corridors Harm Communities and How to Fix Them, examines unhealthy corridors, including their prevalence and location, the conditions they share, and the impact they have on people’s lives. Blind Spots is part of BHP’s Healthy Corridors program, which involves district councils working toward a healthier future for problematic urban and suburban thoroughfares, organizing local stakeholders, and hosting national experts to weigh in on challenges and opportunities.

Through the BHP Initiative, ULI also continued its involvement in the 10 Minute Walk Campaign, an effort implemented in conjunction with the Trust for Public Land and the National Recreation and Park Association to broaden urban residents’ access to high-quality parks and open space and to strengthen communities from an economic, social, and environmental standpoint. Several FY 2019 Advisory Services panels focused on expanding open space, including panels in San Antonio, Detroit, and Sacramento, as well as a panel in Atlanta that advised on capping a section of a downtown freeway with park space to help reconnect neighborhoods.

ULI members with a passion for health continued their participation in the ULI Health Leaders Network program, which provides an opportunity for Institute members to share knowledge and insights about the intersections of health/wellness and real estate and to serve as ambassadors for the topic among the broader ULI membership. Members shared their knowledge about developing communities focused on community vegetable gardens and working farms to inform Agrihoods: Cultivating Best Practices, which identifies strategies to aid developers in creating communities built with a working farm.

In addition, ULI members served as mentors to graduate students in real estate or related fields, sharing their knowledge of both ULI and building for health and wellness through the Randall Lewis Health Mentorship Program. Through the program, endowed with a gift to the ULI Foundation by ULI trustee Randall Lewis, students receive the opportunity to attend the Institute’s Fall and Spring Meetings and learn about ULI, develop relationships with ULI members, and deepen their understanding of opportunities to advance health through careers in the land industry.

Use Navigator to apply to participate in the Health Leaders Network, Health Mentorship Program, and other BHP leadership opportunities.

Use Knowledge Finder to access ULI reports and case studies related to building for health and wellness.

Use the Member Directory to find members with expertise in building healthy places.


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