ULI Colorado Blog

ULI Healthy Corridors Initiative in Colorado – update

By Sarah Franklin and Marianne Eppig

ULI Healthy Corridors Initiative in Colorado

Since Spring 2015, though the Building Healthy Corridors program, ULI Colorado has worked with stakeholders to strategize ways to improve the built environment along auto-oriented corridors to positively influence public health. In 2015-16, the first Healthy Corridors study took place in a 2.2-mile section of Federal Boulevard. Successful workshops in July 2015 (a local activity run by the Colorado District Council) and January 2016 (through a national study) brought 60+ national and local ULI expert volunteers in to work with local stakeholders. The workshops helped identify core issues, built new alliances, and found potential solutions.

ULI Colorado was then awarded additional implementation funding to continue to advance health through key programs. On April 16th, 2017, ULI hosted a “Developer Forum,” which brought together nearly 50 public officials, nonprofits and developers to highlight new opportunities for healthy development, especially in under-served areas that have experienced disinvestment. A write-up of the Developer Forum is available on the ULI website (https://colorado.uli.org/building-healthy-places/federal-boulevard-healthy-corridors-developer-forum/).

With the implementation funding, ULI also held regular meetings from 2016-2017 with the Federal Boulevard Healthy Corridor Local Leadership Group, consisting of stakeholders from Adams County, Denver, Regis University, and Westminster, and a pro-bono attorney, to discuss creating an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA). The IGA would forge agreed-upon principles to improve the Federal Boulevard right-of-way (eg, State Highway 287) for multi-modal access, safety, beauty, access to parks, trails and open space, and connectivity across Federal. The intent was that the group would present these principles to the Colorado Department of Transportation in a unified effort to garner CDOT support and funding for improvements. The Local Leadership Group later decided that they did not need another organization or form of government in the corridor, and dropped the IGA idea. In late 2017, Cultivate Health, Mile High Connects, and NRDC, teamed up to apply for and were awarded a national SPARCC (Strong, Prosperous, And Resilient Communities Challenge) grant. Through this funding, they continue to advance health in this area.

Healthy Corridors South Broadway Local Workshop:

In May 2017, The ULI Foundation awarded ULI Colorado a Phase II Healthy Corridor Grant to continue our Healthy Corridors work through a second study on South Broadway in Englewood. The study area is a two mile section running from Oxford to Yale avenues on South Broadway, and encompasses such assets as Englewood Civic Center, light-rail station, and several medical campuses.

The study segment for Healthy Corridors Phase II posed typical challenges to redevelopment, including varied ownership, complex land and building leases, aging but not obsolete buildings, commercial vacancy, challenging connectivity and circulation, and municipal fiscal constraints.  The corridor has an abundance of car-oriented uses and used-car lots, underused parks, and barriers to active transportation.

Despite these challenges, the workshop discovered opportunities: investment is already happening, people are moving there, transit already exists, and there is a strong city and community stakeholder interest in reinvesting along the corridor to create a healthier built environment.

Through the corridor study, ULI Colorado leveraged the presence of Englewood’s strong medical sector and our partnership with the City of Englewood. On October 10th, 2017, ULI Colorado hosted a local workshop that convened community stakeholders, local government and City Council members, and health experts to discuss a new vision for the corridor, grounded in improving community health. The local workshop took place in four parts:

(1) Morning introductory sessions on the intersection of health and the built environment.
Chris Dunn, President of Dunn + Kiley and Chair of the South Broadway Local Leadership Group, introduced goals for the day. He was followed by remarks from Mayor Joe Jefferson, exemplifying the support from the City of Englewood. Rachel MacCleery, Senior Vice President of Content for the Urban Land Institute, gave an introduction to the national Healthy Corridors Initiative. Rachel discussed how ULI is leveraging the power of ULI’s global networks to shape projects and places in ways that improve the health of people and communities. She went on to describe the built environment factors that influence heath, including parks, access to nature, recreation, housing, social interaction, and arts and culture. Ingredients for healthy, sustainable places could include: compact and mixed land-uses, healthy buildings, and mixed-income housing; healthy food and clean air and water; walkability, bikeability, and transit; civic spaces, parks, and opportunities for social and cultural engagement. She defined the healthy corridor typology as “a place that reflects the culture of the community, promotes social cohesion, inspires and facilitates healthy eating and active living, provides and connects to a variety of economic and educational opportunities and housing and transportation choices, and adapts to the needs and concerns of residents.”

She was followed by a presentation from Brian Dunbar, Executive Director of the Institute for the Built Environment (IBE) and Professor Emeritus with Colorado State University. Professor Dunbar discussed regenerative development, a process of integrating health and vitality into the natural, social and economic systems.

(2) Morning sessions on the study area.
Brad Power, Director of Planning and Community Development for the City of Englewood, gave an overview of the South Broadway Corridor. He said that “there has been a lot of attention paid to Broadway recently in the community.  New businesses are discovering the district, the city is making some improvements and the prospects for the future are good.” Englewood has recently completed two key community planning efforts that directly impact the Broadway corridor.  On February 21st, 2017, City Council adopted a new Comprehensive Plan. The Comprehensive Plan is the overall vision for the growth and development of the city for the next 10-15 years, focusing on land use, housing, parks and open space, business and employment, transportation, and sustainability.  The plan references Broadway being the key commercial district and with potential to attract new development.  In September 2015, the City of Englewood completed the Englewood Walk and Wheel Master Plan, which provides recommendations for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and programs to improve safety, and increase connectivity and transportation options. It identifies key connections throughout the city and places a priority on improving safety and walkability in the downtown area through improvements such as new crosswalks.

In addition, there are two specific city-sponsored public improvement projects in the corridor.  The Broadway/Mansfield intersection will be improved by mid-2018 through a Safe Routes to School grant from the State of Colorado.  And the city-funded 3400 Mid-Block crossing provides a key pedestrian connection in the heart of the downtown district.  It was completed in the Fall of 2017.

The rediscovery of Broadway is well underway through the opening of several new small scale, entrepreneurial businesses along the corridor. There are several new or planned developments within the study area.

Following Brad Power, Dr. John Douglass, Executive Director of the Tri-county Health Department, discussed the local factors that impact health in this area. Englewood has a lower than average median household income, at $36,815, compared to that of Arapahoe County, at $63,265. More than 16 percent of Englewood residents live below the federal poverty level. Over 51 percent of housing units in Englewood are renter occupied, and 38.5 percent of renters (of all ages) pay 35 percent or more of their income on rent. Dr. Douglass goes reported that some of the leading causes of death in Englewood include heart disease and cancer (related to obesity, physical inactivity, and poor nutrition). According to a Tri-County Health Adult Health Risk report from 2012-2015, over 56 percent of Englewood residents are obese. Nearly 18 percent reported that they had no physical activity or exercise in the last 30 days.

(3) Tour of the study area.
Midday, Englewood City Planner Harold Stitt led a bus tour of the Corridor, making stops at new development sites with projects under construction. A list of planned and current development projects are available on the City’s website here: http://www.englewoodco.gov/inside-city-hall/city-departments/community-development/redevelopment-projects. Participants walked commercial blocks on South Broadway, passing many of South Broadway’s notable business such as the Gothic Theater and the Englewood Grand. Participants quickly noted the emerging art scene that has brought new murals and sculptures to pedestrian right of ways. They also saw challenges, like the large parking lot in front of King Soopers next to the corridor (in the heart of the commercial district), empty for most of the day. South Broadway’s eclectic and gritty character gives it an appealing “sense of place,” that is combated by interspersed used-car lots.

The walking portion ended at Acoma Lofts, developed by Medici Communities, which includes 11,000 sf of retail and commercial space, and including 111 affordable one- and two-bedroom apartments in two five-story buildings. Troy Gladwell, Founder and Principal of Medici Communities, discussed the challenges associated with lack of access from his project site to the Little Dry Creek Greenway.

The tour ended with a drive around the Swedish Medical Center, a 408-room acute care hospital, operated by HealthONE Colorado. Currently making major upgrades to facilities, Swedish Medical Center owns a number of underused lots in the northeast portion of our study area and lacks a safe physical connection to the corridor as well as connection to the surrounding community.

(4) Breakout Sessions to identify key challenges and opportunities.
The afternoon was spent identifying the challenges and opportunities in four breakout session areas that included:

Health & Mobility & Safety (Facilitators: JJ Folsom, Progressive Urban Management Associate Cate Townley, Built Environment Specialist, Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment)
Health & Recreation (Facilitator: Tim Anderson, Principal, META)
Health & Housing (Facilitators: Sheila Lynch, Land Use Program Coordinator, Environmental Health Division, Tri-county Health Department; Chad Holtzinger, President, Shopworks Architecture)
Health & Commercial Development/Economy (Facilitators: Andrew Knudtsen, Managing Principal, Economic & Planning Systems; Ryan Simpson, Chief Operating Officer, Swedish Medical Center)

After breakout sessions concluded, workshop attendees heard presentations from each group, and then voted on the identified opportunities. The voting exercise identified priority areas that could advance health in this corridor.

The results from the voting session are below:

  • “Bridge” Medical District to Broadway – 17 votes
  • Increase density and incentivize redevelopment – 12 votes
  • Lower-density “transitional zoning” like ADUs, granny flats, and carriage homes to transition from Broadway to adjacent neighborhoods – 9 votes
  • More “complete housing” including inclusive housing options for various demographics. Include the 4 “s”: single, start-up, single parent, and senior – 9 votes
  • Reconnect Little Dry Creek to Platte River Trail – 9 votes
  • Make Englewood Parkway a true street between Civic Center and Broadway – 8 votes
  • Medical district could benefit from increased walking and pedestrian infrastructure to increase accessibility – 7 votes
    • Wayfinding and distance markers needed
    • Partner with area medical institutions to create signage to increase walking from hospital to Civic Center (show time and health benefits)
  • Business Improvement District for Broadway (BID) – 7 votes
  • New Area Plan and zoning for Englewood Civic Center – 7 votes
  • Create nodes at intersections to address safety concerns and increase pedestrian mobility and traffic calming – 7 votes
  • Wayfinding to and from Englewood Civic Center station; Broadway “first and last mile” and major trail networks – 5 votes
  • Convert waterway into green space; Little Dry Creek – 5 votes
  • Re-purpose and redevelop existing business properties – 3 votes
  • Don’t lose “architecture”; keep it “quirky” – 3 votes
  • Health impacts from displacement – 3 votes
  • Identify context of neighborhoods and don’t lose it! – 3 votes
  • Expand/ enrich school partnerships to make school facilities (like ball fields and courts) more accessible – 3 votes
  • Develop surface lots – 2 votes
  • Energy efficiency for new and affordable projects and provide opportunities for existing homeowners – 2 votes
  • Attract smaller-scale developers who know the neighborhood – 2 votes
  • Mixed-income housing – 1 vote
  • Know your workforce. Housing options so people can live and work in Englewood – 1 vote
  • Mid-block connectivity – 1 vote
  • Health and wellness focus can be a market driver for residents and visitors – 1 vote
  • Outdoor spaces; Focus on activating the spaces between the buildings – this is the vessel for memorable experiences – 1 vote
  • More trees! – 1 vote
  • Farmers markets and festivals in parking lots – 1 vote

Next Steps:

ULI will assess conclusions from the Healthy Corridors South Broadway Local Workshop to create a list of study questions to guide a National Study of this corridor in late January 2018. Consisting of a panel of volunteer ULI experts from around the U.S., the National Working Group will make short and long-term recommendations to advance health in the South Broadway Corridor.

A public presentation of these findings and recommendations will take place at Englewood Civic Center, 1000 Englewood Parkway, from 10:45 am – 12 pm, on Wednesday, January 31st, 2018. Sign up here!

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