At the beginning of 2013, ULI’s Board of Directors approved a focus on healthy communities as a cross-disciplinary theme for the organization. The Building Healthy Places Initiative is managed by a dedicated team with a strong understanding of the connections between health and the built environment. The Building Healthy Places Initiative staff works to connect ULI’s powerful global networks with research and resources to move the conversation forward.
- Raising awareness
- Defining the approach
- Exploring the value proposition
- Advancing the state of practice and policy
Meet the Staff
Senior Vice President, Content
Rachel MacCleery is Senior Vice President at the Urban Land Institute, where she leads the organization’s Building Healthy Places Initiative and other programs. Rachel is spearheading ULI’s efforts to leverage the power of its global networks to shape projects and places in ways that improve the health of people and communities, through design and programming strategies that increase opportunities for physical activity, social engagement, access to healthy food and nature, and other ingredients of holistically healthy living. Rachel has extensive knowledge of land use, environment and sustainability, social equity, and infrastructure policy and practice issues. Rachel has worked at ULI since 2008 and previously worked for AECOM and the District of Columbia Department of Transportation. She has a Masters Degree in Public Administration and Urban and Regional Planning. She speaks Mandarin Chinese and has lived in China off and on since 1994. She currently lives in Washington, DC.
Sara Hammerschmidt is Senior Director, Content at the Urban Land Institute, where she develops content and programs focused on the impact of the built environment on public health through the Building Healthy Places Initiative. Throughout her career, Sara has done extensive work on issues that lie at the intersection of health and the built environment. Previously, she worked at PolicyLink in Oakland, California, researching the inclusion of social and economic equity into projects, plans, and policies that are being implemented at the intersection of health and the built environment. Sara has spoken on the topics of Health Impact Assessment, the role of urban planning in creating healthier cities, and recommendations for incorporating health into all built environment decision making at several national conferences.
Sara holds an M.S. and Ph.D. in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Texas at Austin, where her research focused on developing recommendations for how planning departments across the country can incorporate public health considerations into their work. She also holds a B.S. in Industrial Operations and Engineering from the University of Michigan, and worked for eight years in the technology industry prior to graduate school.
Bridget Stesney is leading the ULI’s work on the 10-Minute Walk Campaign. Bridget joins ULI after ten years working in the public sector for the District of Columbia for DC Public School and DC Parks + Recreation. During her time in DC government, she led the development of the long-term planning and capital investment strategies for parks, recreation centers, and public schools. Prior to that, Bridget worked for non-profits focused on smart growth and brownfields redevelopment.
Matthew Norris supports the Building Healthy Places Initiative and works on projects linking health, sustainability and development. He is the primary or contributing author of several ULI publications, including “Cultivating Development: Trends and Opportunities at the Intersection of Food and Real Estate” and “Active Transportation and Real Estate: The Next Frontier.”
Matt previously worked at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign where he focused on improving access to safe, reliable and equitable modes of transportation throughout southern New Jersey and the Greater Philadelphia area. Matt earned his Master’s in City and Regional Planning from Rutgers University-New Brunswick in 2010, where he focused on international development and comprehensive planning. Matt also holds a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Kansas.
Aysha Cohen supports the Building Healthy Places Initiative’s projects linking health, sustainability and development. She is the contributing author of several ULI publications, including “Harvesting the Value of Water: Stormwater, Green Infrastructure and Real Estate” and “Building Healthy Corridors: Strategy and Resource Guide.”
Prior to ULI, she conducted research as a Fulbright Eco-Leadership scholar in Canada and as a UCLA Institute for Transportation Studies (ITS) scholar in Los Angeles. Her research for the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), “Equity in Motion: Bikeshare in Low-Income Communities”, geospatially and statistically analyzed 84 factors to examine challenges and opportunities for bikeshare in high-poverty areas of Washington, DC. She is a co-founder of “The Olive Tree Initiative: Armenia-Turkey”, an interdisciplinary travel-study conflict resolution group. She earned her Masters of Urban & Regional Planning (MURP) at UCLA and speaks Spanish, Turkish and English.
Reema Singh supports the Building Healthy Places Initiative’s projects on commercial corridors, parks and open spaces, and social equity. With a background in program evaluation and the social sciences, Reema helps to ensure that BHP’s initiatives are locally-driven, results-oriented and impactful with respect to bringing equitable change during revitalization. Prior to joining ULI, Reema provided technical assistance and research support for a range of community-based health and urban education reform studies at the RAND Corporation, collaborating with local development agencies to highlight a need for sustainable built environments. Reema holds a Masters in Public Policy and Management from H. John Heinz III College at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, as well as a B.A in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Rochester.
Violeta Duncan contributes to the ULI 10-Minute Walk Campaign. Violeta earned her M.S. in Urban Planning from Columbia University and her B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis. Through her roles at Enterprise Community Partners (Denver) and The Democracy Collaborative (DC & Cleveland), she has developed a specialization in community economic development and socially responsible investing and grant-making. She enjoys performance art, appreciates different conceptions of property rights and responsibilities, and always remains curious.
Senior ULI Advisers
Calvin Gladney has spent the past 15 years working around the country to ensure that the revitalization of neighborhoods and corridors is done equitably, and that people in those areas have an equal shot at participating in the prosperity that can result from change. Mr. Gladney is Managing Partner of Mosaic Urban, and is a public-private partnership strategist, real estate developer, and trusted advisor to organizations seeking to sustainably transform urban communities. He is a trustee of ULI and a member of its national Public Private Partnership Council.
ULI Senior Visiting Fellow for Creative Placemaking
Juanita Hardy has over 41 years of business experience, including 31 years with IBM, and over 35 years in the arts as a nonprofit leader, trustee, collector, and patron of the arts. She is the former Executive Director of CulturalDC, a nonprofit committed to making space for artists and art organizations and fostering cultural and economic vibrancy in communities through its creative placemaking services.
Charles E. Fraser Chair on Sustainable Development and Environmental Policy
Ed McMahon is nationally known as an inspiring and thought-provoking speaker and leading authority on topics related to sustainable development, land conservation, smart growth, and historic preservation. McMahon is the author or coauthor of 15 books and more than 300 articles.