Every city wants to be more vibrant, sustainable, and equitable, with healthy and happy citizens and a flourishing economy. However, often the built environment in a community is not conducive to meeting these goals. Commercial corridors — characterized by many traffic lanes, fast speeds, narrow or missing sidewalks, and strip malls — are found in nearly every city and community in the United States. They can create challenges to physical, mental, social, economic, and environmental health.
Building healthy corridors across the United States
A two-year project spearheaded by ULI, and supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Colorado Health Foundation, is taking an in-depth look at corridors in four U.S. cities. Interdisciplinary leadership teams led by the District Council in each city—Boise, Idaho; Denver; Los Angeles; and Nashville—are looking at specific corridors, called Demonstration Corridors, that have some momentum for change. The Healthy Corridors project is putting the health of the surrounding community front and center when looking to redesign, reconfigure, and redevelop these corridors. The project has the overarching goal of identifying approaches that work for spurring real changes on the ground and growing a community of practice around effective approaches to creating holistically healthy corridors.
Opportunities and issues for health
Over the summer of 2015, each Demonstration Corridor held a local workshop to bring together stakeholders and start or continue a community-wide discussion on how to improve each corridor in ways that promote health. Opportunities, challenges, and key focus areas were discussed, and will set the stage for National Study Visits from outside experts in the Fall and Winter of 2015/2016.
Boise, Vista Avenue. The Boise workshop included an insightful walking tour with photos shared with everyone immediately afterwards. Diverse participants attended, including both community stakeholders and agency representatives. Key issues coming out of the workshop include improving pedestrian access, reducing lane widths and speeds, and working with business owners to get buy-in on improvements and reinvestment. Next steps include developing a vision for the corridor with comprehensive engagement and diverse support, and looking at cosmetic improvements.
Denver, Federal Boulevard. The Denver workshop successfully achieved buy-in and engagement from three political jurisdictions that govern the study section (City of Denver, Adams County, and City of Westminster) and the engagement of diverse stakeholders. Key issues that arose during the workshop included the need to improve sidewalks and connectivity, enhance opportunities for new retail and services, and upgrade water infrastructure. Next steps include working with Adams County on infrastructure funding and working across the three jurisdictions to create an inter-governmental structure to support corridor-wide improvements.
Los Angeles, Van Nuys Boulevard. The LA workshop brought together groups that had not been connected previously, and the team was able to establish a foundation of common understanding around the need to improve health for those who rely on Van Nuys Boulevard. Key issues from the workshop include the need to improve the perception and reality of safety (traffic, crime, gang activity), education and training tied to the arts and culture scene, new uses to improve economic and public health, and engaging all populations and ages in decisions that impact the corridor. Next steps include capitalizing on the “mural mile” brand of the corridor and working with partners to coordinate a pop-up/tactical urbanism event.
Nashville, Charlotte Avenue. The workshop in Nashville built on previous corridor work, and was framed as a development charrette to ensure this effort is action-oriented. Pre-workshop, the team organized a “Scavenger Hunt” to inventory corridor assets. Key issues include the need to create a brand along the corridor with new signage and a unifying vision, and to form a single organizational implementation center to collect, organize, and fund changes. Next steps include reaching out to key partners (universities, healthcare institutions, residents, businesses, community-serving non-profits), identifying initial branding opportunities, and identifying an organizational entity to catalyze change along the corridor.
The Healthy Corridors project National Working Group members and other experts will visit each Demonstration Corridor later this year and early next year to provide recommendations for key issues facing each corridor. Issues common to all four corridors include improving connectivity and infrastructure for pedestrians and bikes, improving real and perceived safety, developing and procuring new businesses, retail, and investment, and creating opportunities for engaging and educating residents.
For more information on the Healthy Corridors project and the Demonstration Corridors, visit uli.org/healthycorridors