A northeast Denver neighborhood where the average household is almost 40 percent below the average for the entire city and a mountain apartment complex with hundreds of children and no playground have been selected as the first two “Building Healthy Places” workshops sponsored by a locally based nonprofit group that sponsors best practices in land use through Smart Growth practices.
The all-day event is sponsored by Colorado District Council of the Urban Land Institute. It will feature ULI Colorado volunteers who are experts in development, housing, architecture and planning. The panel members have not yet been chosen.
ULI will recruit workshop panelists from its 1,007 Colorado members, who include leaders in architecture, real estate development, planning, and public health.
They 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.
- Public safety.
ULI Colorado described the two subject communities this way:
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 with 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 East 40th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard 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,” said Judy H. Montero, Denver City Councilwoman, District 9, who represents the neighborhood.
Tentatively, the workshop is scheduled for July 30 or July 31.
Lake Creek Village Apartments.
Lake Creek is a 270-unit garden apartment complex on 30 acres in Edwards, about six miles from Beaver Creek.
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 more than 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. Tentatively, the workshop will be held either on June 27.
“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, executive vice president 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,” Monroe added.
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,” according to 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,” according to the report.
With assistance from the ULI Foundation, ULI Colorado is making one-day workshops available to two communities.
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.
Interested in buying a home in Elyria-Swanson? Please visit COhomefinder.com.
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