Date: February 26 – March 2, 2018
Location: City of Greeley, CO
Sponsor: Colorado Health Foundation, City of Greeley
Subject Area: Building Healthy Places
Panel Chair: Kamuron Gurol, Sound Transit, Seattle, Washington
Background and Panel Assignment
The City of Greeley, one of Colorado’s northernmost cities on the Front Range, is located an hour north of Denver and approximately 30 minutes from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The panel was asked to examine the East Memorial neighborhood of Greeley (“the study area”), which is generally defined as the area east of US Highway 85 and north of US Highway 34. While parts of East Greeley are rural in character, the East Memorial neighborhood is more densely populated and has historically been home to the city’s immigrant populations, with nearly 70% of the study area’s population identifying as Hispanic.
Throughout the week, the panel examined how to build stronger healthier communities through an equity lens. While it will take a thoughtful strategy, sufficient resources, and multiple actors pulling together to make meaningful, sincere, and equitable change, the panel saw ample evidence of local voices who are ready to be effective champions of change. The panel was especially impressed with the residents of the East Memorial neighborhood, who made time to contribute their voices, experiences, expertise, and insights to help the panel’s understanding of the challenges and opportunities in their neighborhood. These are the future community champions who can help ensure that Greeley residents and businesses use their voices to create a healthier community in East Memorial and throughout the entire city.
The City of Greeley has asked the ULI Advisory Services panel to develop a set of strategic recommendations to help develop a vision for making East Greeley a healthier, better connected, and more equitable place. Specifically, the panel was asked to examine the following items:
- Community Engagement – What communication strategies would be most effective to address outreach, education, cultural diversity, and youth engagement in the study area located in eastern Greeley?
- Legacy Building – How can the City of Greeley and partnering agencies effectively engage, grow and support community champions and neighborhood leaders, including youth? How can we characterize and communicate the value of the east Greeley neighborhoods to the greater fabric of the City of Greeley?
- Neighborhood Connectivity– What public and private challenges exist, and what are recommended solutions to address:
- Safe routes to schools and other amenities;
- Development and access to parks, natural areas, rivers, and trail connections;
- Bike/Ped/Transit infrastructure including access and programming that will encourage its use;
- Connectivity to education, food, shopping, entertainment, recreation, government, and social and educational services located outside of the neighborhood?
- Infrastructure – What public and private constraints exist, and what are recommended potential solutions to address the following:
- Substandard public utilities, complete streets, storm water, park, infrastructure, and trails.
- Lack of private food (e.g. groceries and restaurants), religious and community gathering spaces, and housing options.
- Activating Places – What are key recommendations to create educational programs that encourage and promote healthy lifestyles? What recommendations would be effective in activating sites in the study area through use diversification and affordable programing? What are recommending funding and financing approaches?
- Measuring Success – Identify recommended benchmarks and indicators that the City of Greeley and partnering agencies should use to:
- Begin measuring the effectiveness of the panel’s implemented strategies; and
- Communicate progress and celebrate community success?
- What are recommended approaches to measure and communicate impact and outcomes including behavioral, health, economic and policy changes?
Summary of Recommendations
Following a week of briefings, review of past plans and studies, site tours, and community stakeholder interviews, the panel developed a set of strategic recommendations for the City of Greeley. These recommendations represent a myriad of small to large-scale recommendations, with the major recommendations summarized below:
Healthy Parks and Healthy Food– Increase the usage of current parks with low or no cost measures including: creating visually inviting park entrances; finding partnerships to support free admittance for East Greeley families to the Discovery Bay Water Park, temporarily lining or marking the soccer fields to allow simultaneous access for adults and youth games ; and, incorporate a coffee cart, small concession stands or healthy snack venue. Many of the panel’s recommendations build off the City of Greeley’s exceptional work to date on its conceptual plan for the East Memorial Natural Area. Other longer-term recommendations include developing the East Memorial Natural Area, adding kids play equipment to Memorial Park, expanding the park’s hours by providing carefully designed lightening systems, using a community planning process to help design and place new park furniture, and adding free WiFi to all public gathering spaces including all the parks. Additionally, the panel suggested future investment in new amenities including developing an open venue, restoring the bike path to the City of Evans, and providing park access to Riverside residents.
Best Practices – For long-term success in creating a thriving community, ULI’s Ten Principles for Building Healthy Placesshould be incorporated and used as resource for future planning and development in East Greeley.
Community engagement and empowerment– Perceptions of the East Memorial community have largely been defined by barriers. An opportunity exists to work directly with East Memorial residents to move beyond the deficit based perceptions of the neighborhood and define their community vision to show what is great, beautiful, and special about the community and a future for what is possible in East Memorial. The panel’s recommendations include engaging residents as partners to develop an East Memorial vision statement that reflects their own story; provide seed funding to a resident stakeholder group to select community signage, art, and the language that will be used to identify the gateways to the area. Additional projects the panel recommends are to designate East Memorial as an official “family zone” modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone and to seed a micro-grant program working with neighborhood community groups to invest in beautification, public art, lightening, and beyond. The panel believes there is an opportunity to build on City of Greeley’s engagement efforts with the following: 1) Go where people are; 2) Leverage each opportunity; 3) Communicate using multiple methods; 4) Make it worth people’s time; and 5) Measure success.
Vision and Urban Design– The panel’s design vision for East Memorial strengthens the community by providing a design framework that reinforces healthy and active living, proposes an economic catalyst, develops a regional and local identity for the community, and provides destinations for the community to gather and places where the community can feel pride and ownership. The proposed vision is framed around six key urban themes:
Design a framework focusing on a healthy, active community experience
- Develop a there-there with a regional/local scaled key destination
- Elevate the identity of the neighborhood
- Develop a gateway commercial center that incorporates local amenities
- Enhance connectivity through streetscape improvements, a vibrant park, and open space framework
- Create active, diverse, and multi-generational park programing
Involve the private sector and non-profit partners– The private and non-profit sectors play a major role in building the places that impact equitable community health. Recommended partnerships are highlighted below:
- Use an experienced urban retail expert to create a detailed market analysis to establish the opportunity for a grocery store and other retailers along 22nd Street and 1stAvenue;
- Explore potential partnerships with healthcare providers to place primary care clinics within walking distance of East Greeley residents. Also work with them to create active living facilities, healthy food systems, and educational efforts around healthy eating and living;
- Engage existing entrepreneurs and small business owners who live and/or work in East Greeley to become part of the healthy living approach as potential business tenants, event and program sponsors and participants (e.g. food trucks), political advocates, developers, and in-kind donors for public space improvements, among other things;
- Work with major employers including UNC and the hospital to celebrate the diversity and walkability of East Greeley as part of their talent recruitment and retention efforts;
- Expand the Greeley Home Ownership Program for Employees (G-HOPE) to include East Greeley;
- Review land development regulations to identify any needed adjustments to require or incentivize healthy living improvements such as mixed land use, sidewalks, higher quality lighting, public art, and more. This may also include adjustments to the City’s responsibilities for street lighting and other improvements to adjacent public spaces;
- And, work with Xcel Energy to implement a pilot program upgrading lighting on one or two key pathways identified by community members as particularly troubling.
Make Better Connections – The panel developed several recommendations about how to use biking, walking and transit connections to create opportunities to improve access, connectivity, mobility and overall neighborhood health. These include: Create a Transit Ambassador Program with Greeley Evans Transit (GET) staff to establish a “train the trainer” program with Boys and Girls Club youth members, Scouts, and other in GET services and apps to share within their community. Incorporate a BMX bike course in an unused space as a new activity option at one of East Greeley’s parks. The panel also believes that there are many opportunities to improve major intersections along US 85 through the following: extending sidewalks to slow vehicle turning speeds and to reduce the width of road crossings; extending road medians to reduce the speed of turning cars; adding marked crosswalks, which can incorporate some of the recommended creative tactical urbanism strategies; adding well-defined bike lanes; adding street-trees to provide shade and shelter; bringing building faces closer to roadways; adding bike and pedestrian wayfinding signs; and, enhancing lighting to improve visibility for pedestrians and cyclists. Additionally, the panel strongly believes the City of Greeley should take advantage of existing plans such as the 2014 Greeley Bike and Pedestrian Plan, install wayfinding signage, establish a US 85 Gateway to Greeley, test ideas with temporary designs, add projects to regular state DOT funding programs, and link projects to railroad quiet zones.