ULI Colorado Blog

ULI working with 2 to ‘build healthy places’

ULI selects two communities to help ‘build healthy places’

ULI Colorado has selected two communities for its first two Building Healthy Places Workshops. In a one-day format, leading ULI Colorado volunteers will work with the communities to find practical ways to improve the urban environment in ways that benefit public health of residents. The goal is to encourage:
• active living,
• healthy buildings,
• access to nature and healthy food,
• and public safety.
The two communities are:

Elyria/Swansea, Denver. Only four miles from downtown, Elyria-Swansea is the birthplace of rail in Colorado and home to 6,400 residents who live close to intensive industrial uses, highways and railways. The neighborhood is 84 percent Latino, with many multi-generational households. The community faces economic challenges, with an average household income of $44,700 compared to Denver’s average of $73,000. Additionally, the poor physical environment – with disconnected streets and lack of convenient access to parks, healthy foods and other services – contributes to higher than average rates of asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular disease among residents.

A planned FasTracks commuter rail transit stop at 40th and Colorado presents opportunities for neighborhood improvements and services in Elyria-Swansea as well as the adjoining Clayton and Northeast Park Hill neighborhoods. The ULI panel will seek ways to create connections, neighborhood investment, and opportunities for healthy living. Stakeholders include city agencies, residents of Elyria/Swansea and adjacent neighborhoods, commercial property owners, and the Urban Land Conservancy.

“The selection of the historic Elyria and Swansea neighborhoods for the Building Healthy Places Workshop is important, timely and relevant to the future of the constituents that I represent,” says Judy H. Montero, Denver City Councilwoman, District 9.

Lake Creek Village Apartments, Edwards, Colorado. Lake Creek is a 270-unit garden apartment complex located on 30 acres. Designed decades ago for ski resort and service workers (anticipated to be young and single), Lake Creek has evolved into a property that houses people of all income levels, including many low-income families. There are now over 600 children living in the apartment complex with no place to play on site and poor access to healthy food, recreation and services. Because of this residents experience a disproportionate rate of obesity and related chronic disease. ULI Colorado will work with a local Healthy Communities Coalition representing 30 local organizations and 50 individuals.

“These two communities will get to work with the leading architects, developers and public health experts in Colorado on land use strategies to improve the health of their citizens,” says Kirk Monroe, EVP of Vectra Bank Colorado and chair of ULI Colorado. “With health care costs straining our GDP and draining family budgets, this has become a huge issue for our economy as well as quality of life.”

A body of research links the design and planning of communities to public health. Residents of communities that lack opportunities for physical activity and access to healthy food tend to be less active and have poorer diets. These conditions contribute to in rapidly growing rates of obesity and obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart attacks. In Colorado, childhood obesity rates have grown approximately 10 percent in less than 10 years. More than 20 percent of adults are obese and obesity-related disease costs the state $1.6 billion annually.

“Chronic or ‘lifestyle’ diseases… now cause nearly two-thirds of deaths worldwide each year,” states Intersections: Health and the Built Environment, a 2013 ULI report. “By 2030, chronic diseases will cause 52 million global deaths per year, nearly five times the number of deaths from communicable diseases….The built environment is part of the health problem. But it is also part of the solution.”
With assistance from the ULI Foundation, ULI Colorado is making one-day workshops available to two communities. The panels will be administered by ULI Colorado’s Building Healthy Places committee, chaired by Josh Radoff of YR&G and Susan Powers of Urban Ventures LLC.

The Colorado Health Foundation has been a key local supporter of ULI’s Building Healthy Places Initiative and has been advising ULI on the BHP workshops.

ULI will recruit workshop panelists from its 1,007 Colorado members, who include leaders in architecture, real estate development, planning, and public health.

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