ULI Health Leaders were asked to reflect on when they first grasped that the built environment and the design of communities play a significant role in the ability to make healthy choices and live healthy lives. This group of professionals—which includes architects, real estate experts, urban planners, health experts, and community developers—presented a range of these “a-ha moments”: some realized it early in life while others made connections later through their professional experiences.
Can vacant theaters, banks, schools, libraries, churches, apartment buildings, and storefronts that once were mainstays of Detroit neighborhoods be preserved while also providing an economic boost? That was the issue facing a ULI Advisory Services panel that gathered in the Motor City in late July.
Affordable and workforce housing policies and programs put in place by the governments of New York City, Los Angeles County, and the states of New Jersey and New York have been selected as finalists for the 2018 ULI Larson Housing Policy Leadership Award. The annual award, presented by ULI’s Terwilliger Center for Housing, recognizes innovative ways the public sector is addressing the nation’s affordable housing crisis.
The ULI Health Leaders Network is empowering real estate and land use professionals with the skills, knowledge, and networks to improve health outcomes in their professional practice and communities. Health leaders interviewed friends or family members—outside of the traditional health or built-environment professions—on whether (and how) they think about ways the built environment the built environment affects their health, the biggest influences on their own health, and where they typically get health-related information. Through these conversations, health leaders gleaned ways to better communicate with a general audience.
With buildings accounting for 75 percent of U.S. electricity consumption, achieving these commitments will require the active participation and cooperation of the real estate sector. However, many U.S. cities are still in the very early stages of developing new policies and incentive programs to support the real estate industry in transitioning to more energy-efficient building development and management.
Changsha is a bustling city of 7 million people in China’s central Hunan province. The Baxi River meanders through the city, carrying water flows that have created 15 scattered islands near the city. Seasonal flooding, rapid water flow, and constructed monocultures have caused escalating erosion, destabilization, and loss of habitat along the banks. Past approaches to managing the river have favored the creation of hard edges to protect land and property. With the two-mile-long (3.2 km), 156-acre (63 ha) Baxi River Forest Island, the local government tried a new approach. It embraced the river ecosystem, creating a new park that is helping both nature and people thrive.
The Ricardo Lara Linear Park in Lynwood, California, demonstrates how underused land can be repurposed to benefit an entire community. Teamwork and creativity transformed a vacant five-acre (2 ha) stretch of land along Interstate 105 into a park that advances social equity, improves environmental health, and offers recreation spaces for all ages.
The Quequechan River Trail is reusing an abandoned rail right-of-way to provide public access to the Quequechan River, offering benefits for the community of Fall River, Massachusetts, improving water quality, and creating valuable wetland habitat. In 1958, the construction of Interstate 195 split the city in half and blocked access to the river. The new trail, made possible through strong partnerships, now provides almost two miles (3.2 km) of trails to pedestrians and bicyclists and restores a connection to the Quequechan River.
Madrid Rio Park was made possible by the burial of 25 miles (40 km) of urban motorways that had separated Madrid’s 6 million residents from the Manzanares River, which flows through the city. The park now occupies 360 acres (146 ha) of green space, with trails and urban beaches sharing space with art centers, playgrounds, and cafés, providing a link between city and river, and between the urban ecosystem and the vast Manzanares River basin.
The ULI Urban Open Space Award recognizes vibrant parks and open spaces that have been transformative in promoting healthy, sustainable, and equitable outcomes in their communities. This year, five projects were selected as finalists.