Healthy Demonstration Corridors
Introduction: Nearly every community across the United States is plagued by auto-dominated arterials and commercial corridors that add pollution, ugliness, and danger to the metropolitan landscape. The ULI Healthy Corridors project is a two year project launched in 2014, and undertaken by the Building Healthy Places Initiative and the Rose Center for Public Leadership. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Colorado Health Foundation, ULI is investigating best practices to reinvent under-performing suburban and urban arterials in health-promoting ways. This work will help advance efforts to foster places that promote health for the people who live, work, and travel on these streets.
This project builds on previous work at ULI on corridors, including Advisory Services Panels, Technical Assistance Panels, and Rose Center land use challenges. However, the primary focus of these efforts typical involve revitalization of the street, making the environment safer and more aesthetically pleasing, bringing in a complete streets approach. There has been less attention to the health outcomes that arise for those who live, work, and travel along these corridors, which this project strives to address.
Goals for this project include:
- Developing and refining approaches for creating a holistically healthy corridor.
- Identifying approaches that work for spurring real change along the corridors.
- Leveraging a new understanding among the ULI networks, nurturing and informing a community of practice around effective approaches to creating healthy corridors.
- Disseminating lessons learned from demonstration corridors throughout the ULI networks.
The Healthy Corridors project operates on both a national and a local level. Locally, four of ULI’s District Councils (ULI Colorado, ULI Idaho, ULI Los Angeles, and ULI Nashville) are engaged throughout the duration of the project and have identified a problematic corridor in their cities to focus on, referred to as Demonstration Corridors. Each Demonstration Corridor has formed a local leadership group of experts and is engaging other critical stakeholders through efforts, including local workshops, held in the summer of 2015, which focused on the corridor and how the health of the people living along it can be improved through partnerships, collaboration, and on-the-ground changes.
Additionally, a National Working Group of leading experts in land use, development, planning, health, community engagement, and design has been formed to oversee the project and the work in the Demonstration Corridors. The project has also engaged other experts on land use and development, including alumni of the Rose Fellowship
Vista Avenue Healthy Corridor: ULI Idaho and partnering with the City of Boise Energize our Vista Neighborhood project will be working on a 1.7 mile segment of a 4 mile, 4 lane arterial connecting the airport, Interstate 84, Boise State University, and downtown Boise. Vista Avenue exemplifies a typical strip commercial street, with auto-oriented retail, bars, pawn shops, a mix of converted and dilapidated housing, and very few pedestrian facilities. This segment of the corridor bifurcates the Vista Neighborhood, which has some of the lowest livability indicators (income, single family home value, etc.) in the city, and includes a mix of single and multi-family housing. Due to the function of this corridor as a gateway to the city and the lack of relationship to the surrounding neighborhoods, there is a lot of opportunity to improve the uses and infrastructure along Vista Avenue to make it more attractive to visitors, while simultaneously improving the health and well-being of residents who rely on the corridor as part of their daily lives.
National Study Team Visit: In February 2016, a national team of experts came to town to assist ULI Idaho and its partners in resolving the challenges for making Vista Avenue a healthier corridor. The national team members include: Patti Clare – Louisville, KY, James Moore – Tampa, FL, Danny Pleasant – Charlotte, NC, Michael Wojcik – Rochester MN, Stuart Levin – Raleigh, NC, Tracy Kane – Nashville, TN, Sara Hammerschmidt – ULI, DC, and Jess Zimbabwe- ULI Rose Center, DC.
After two days of interviews and investigations, the Team presented their findings including recommended action steps to the ACHD Commissioners, City Council Members, staff and the public. Among the many recommendations were the following:
- Viewing Vista is a through-way not a gateway which is the vision. And it could be a gateway not just to Boise but to the entire region and to Idaho, as a continuation of what is presented at the airport for arriving visitors.
- The big idea is that Vista could be configured as a 3 -lane road with protected bike lanes and 15′ of landscape/sidewalk with minimal delay to what travelers currently experience.
- Some of the sidewalk curb-cuts along the street may be out of compliance with the Americans for Disability Act (ADA) standards and pose a risk for persons in wheel chairs.
- There is substantial economic gain to be achieved by a re-configured Vista Avnue with enhanced pedestrian and bicycle environment.
- The Bench could become the Brooklyn of Idaho – the new creative district.
For more details, view the slide presentation made by the National Team: ULI Healthy Corridors National Study Visit Presentation Vista Avenue final
Healthy Communities Initiative Council
In the Fall of 2011, the ULI Idaho District Council was granted an Urban Innovation Grant from the ULI Foundation to pursue the opportunities for a partnership with other organizations. The objective of the effort was to mobilize action in support of developing a healthy community. To build capacity within the district council organization for a partnership with other organizations, a Healthy Community Initiative Council was formed. “ULI Idaho The Next 1000“ is a summary of the work completed by the Council over a six month period to examine the opportunities and challenges of creating 1000 new housing units in Boise within five years, and recommends collaborative actions with partners needed for success. All members of the Healthy Community Initiative Council were involved in some phase of this study. They were assisted through interviews, advice and technical information provided by individuals from the broader community and other ULI District Councils. Initiative Council Members: Amanda Ashley, Boise State University; Adam Little, Eberle Berlin; Gary Allen, Givens Pursley; Jeremy Malone, Oppenheimer Companies; Matt Brookshier, The Brookshier Group; Derick O’Neill, City of Boise; Clay Carley, Old Boise; Scott Schoenherr, Rafanelli & Nahas; Stan Cole, Cole Architects; Bryant Forester, Urban Concepts; Bob Taunton, Taunton Group; Mike Hormaechea, RMH Company; Bruce Wetten, Title One; George Iliff, Colliers International; Ed Miller, Givens Pursley; and Diane, Kushlan, ULI Idaho. On June 17, 2014, over 90 ULI and Community leaders hear the findings and recommendation of the Initiative Council in a Presentation followed by a panel of local community leaders moderated by Jeremy Malone, Oppenheimer Development Corporation Vice-president. Maryann Jordan, Boise City Council Member, said the recommendations are very much in parallel with the City’s objectives and investment strategies over the next few years which are currently under review through the city’s budget process. John Franden, Ada County Highway District Commissioner indicated that the district will be reviewing their impact fee structure beginning this fall. He cautioned that resources are limited and if fees are reduced in one area they will need to be increased somewhere else in a fair and proportionate manner. John Brunelle, Capital City Development Corporation Executive Director praised the work and said his agency is ready to partner with other to see what incentives can be provided ofr housing. He reviewed the district’s current policy of incentivizing projects and they are ready to aprtner Kâren Sander, Downtown Boise Association (DBA) Executive Director said the DBA has long recognized the value of housing for economic vitality. They have sponsored Mothers’ Day downtown house tours and developed a website on downtown living: http://www.downtownboiseliving.org/ Brad Barker, Group One, Inc. President indicated the high level of interest in downtown condominiums. Price point is an issue. Wes Jost, Zions Bank Senior Vice President Idaho Regional Director of Real Estate, reported that the Bank has changes the loan to value ration is from 75 to 70, because of slow sales. Kent Hanway, host and ULI vice-chair for program provided the closing comments:
- There is a potential loss of a generation, our children and the millennial generation, as they search out to more urban communities & cities to reside. The need to make downtown housing available in Boise is imperative if we intend to keep and attract this generation to our community.
- The impact parking structure within a multi-family residential development has on a project’s proforma, and how some offset of these costs can significantly help the ROI. This impact is significantly greater than paying more for the land, which is a minimal impact.
- The significant amount of fees, taxes and connection charges collected by cities, ACHD, and counties required to proceed with development; noted at up to 5% on many projects. Efforts to collectively look at these fees and determine if some of them could be mitigated would be a great first step.
- Downtown Boise has a “supply” problem, not a “demand” problem. We need to bring into balance the challenge of costs for the various income levels to help meet the demand. This challenge needs to be discussed amongst the development community as well as with the cities to help mitigate the current disparity.
A second program, Housing Product Types and Density-What’s Right for Downtown Boise was held on July 15, 2015. Keynote speaker, Gene Callan, AIA with GBD Architects described trends in Portland, Oregon which are driving the downtown housing market there:
- Younger population
- A shift from owning to renting
- Supply exceeds demand for housing
- high occupancy – low vacancy
- an increase of 32 to 42 in the percentage of rent paid to income in the past 5 years
Gene’s theme was “build places, not projects” and once you build “place” people will spend more to live downtown. Carl Miller presented information on the demographics of Boise downtown and in comparison with other downtown. A panel of four developers described their current plans and why they are investing in downtown:
- Michael Hormaechea said since the last housing was built downtown in 2009, many more downtown amenities have been built. Even in the down market of 2010-13, fifty condos a year were sold. All of this motivates him to build 61 condos at 9th and River streets. His market profile are: people seeking an urban lifestyle; empty nesters; and investors or second home buyers.
- Joe Marsh, AIA, with CSHQA and representing Sawtooth Development described their condo project at Main and 10th that will have a loft feel.
- Joe Coyle, with the Michaels Group, said even with the set-backs, his company is excited about the 175 unit student housing project they plan: River’s Edge along the Boise River.
- Clay Carley said in creating the Owyhee Lofts he has taken a 180 degree turn from condos to apartments. The Lofts will be the first market rate apartments available in downtown Boise in 20 years. He said the struggle is the parking requirements and changing the parking rules is the key to stimulating more housing.