Four district councils have received grants to support creative placemaking projects that will use arts-based placemaking strategies and programming to strengthen the connection between the built environment and human health. Two councils will pursue creative placemaking projects that revitalize specific commercial corridors, and two others will hold multiday workshops for stakeholders to help them understand and implement creative placemaking principles that promote physical activity and encourage healthy behaviors.
Creative placemaking is a multidisciplinary approach to urban revitalization that uses the arts and cultural assets to define a sense of place while also drawing investment to and engaging residents in rebuilding underserved neighborhoods. ULI has been developing a body of work on creative placemaking through a $250,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation. ULI’s creative placemaking initiative extends the work of the ULI Healthy Corridors project, which has developed a set of best practices on creating healthy, people-oriented places through the transformation of automobile-centric arterial roads and commercial corridors that divide neighborhoods.
Juanita Hardy, ULI senior visiting fellow, and Rachel MacCleery, ULI senior vice president for content, have been leading the initiative, which in part aims to build the capacity of local land use leaders and the real estate community to use creative placemaking to redevelop specific neighborhoods or sites. The district council grants support those efforts.
“Our goal is to develop expertise at the local level which taps into local cultural assets to apply creative placemaking approaches to transform distressed areas into vibrant, healthy places—all while empowering residents to actively participate in the process,” Hardy says.
Adds MacCleery, “Another goal is to share best practices and lessons learned from these four projects so that the wider ULI membership can use creative placemaking to advance the state of health in their own communities.”
ULI Idaho and ULI Memphis will use their grants to pursue projects to enhance the pedestrian experience and civic engagement along major commercial corridors.
As a participant in the national Healthy Corridors project, ULI Idaho has been focused for the past two years on strategies for transforming a 1.7-mile (2.7 km) section of Vista Avenue—Boise’s main commercial thoroughfare connecting downtown with the airport and Boise State University—into a healthier, more people-oriented place. The grant will allow ULI Idaho to test on a two-block stretch of Vista Avenue several ideas developed through multiple Healthy Corridors workshops and a study tour by a national group of health, transportation, and real estate experts.
ULI Memphis will pursue several creative placemaking projects, including public art installations, pop-up businesses, and incubators, to enliven a critical intersection—the corner of Madison and Cleveland avenues—in the Memphis Medical District, an area that bridges downtown and midtown Memphis. Although the district is poised to undergo major redevelopment—three major real estate projects are in the works—vacant storefronts are the norm and key elements of a healthy community are missing, including high-quality affordable housing, walkable retail corridors, and high-quality public spaces. Fewer than 10,000 people live in the district, and many have low incomes and are disconnected from opportunities.
With new bike lanes and a trolley line planned for the district, one of the aims of the project is to increase ridership and connectivity with high-opportunity areas. ULI Memphis and its partners, including the city of Memphis, the UrbanArt Commission, and other groups, will focus on increasing transit use through the arts.
ULI Michigan and ULI Triangle each received grants to hold multiday workshops to explore the use of creative placemaking in specific contexts.
The Henry Ford Health System is embarking on an ambitious, $500 million, 300-acre (120 ha) expansion project in an underserved neighborhood in Detroit. The master plan includes housing and commercial development; a sizable green open space, known as Grand Park, that will serve as a focal point for the development; and a community center focused on health. One aim of the ULI Michigan project is to use creative placemaking to add amenities and opportunities for physical activity and make Grand Park a center for healthy, active living.
North Carolina’s Research Triangle region is building out its transit system as three counties that make up the region—Wake, Durham, and Orange—experience population growth, densify, and become more closely connected. ULI Triangle will explore how creative placemaking can enhance the transit experience for consumers in order to boost a sense of ownership and pride. The council will work with partners to look at how creative placemaking can transform individual transit stations and other public spaces associated with the transit system.
A second round of grants will be made to district councils interested in using creative placemaking strategies to transform commercial corridors into a pedestrian-friendly, healthy places. To learn more, visit uli.org/health.