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Healthy Communities

A major goal of the ULI Idaho District Council is to create a partnership with other health, education, business, non-profit and other organizations to mobilize action around support for healthy real estate practices in the Treasure Valley. To achieve this goal, the focus on programming in the next year is on Healthy Communities and a Healthy Communities Initiative Council has been created with fifteen interested ULI members.

Healthy Communities

In February 2014, the program, Building Healthy Places: Raising Awareness of the Relationship between Health and the Built Environment was held at the Boise Centre in Boise and at the Kroc Center in Coeur d’Alene with close to 150 people in attendance in total at both locations. Here are the highlights from both the program locations:


Michael Horst, Senior Vice-President for the ULI Robert C, Larsen leadership Initiative and a senior staff advisor for ULI’s Building Healthy Places Initiative provided the opening remarks. He highlighted the pressing health challenges. Health care costs comprise 19% of the US GDP in 2010.  Idaho is about average in obesity rates.

ULI’s initiative is to explore the intersection between health and the built environment. Developers may be able to affect change more than doctors in white coats. He summarized the finding of the recently published report, Ten Principles for Building Healthy Places:

  1. Put People First
  2. Recognize the Economic Value
  3. Empower Champions of Health
  4. Energize Shared Spaces
  5. Make Healthy Choices Easy
  6. Ensure Equitable Access
  7. Mix it Up
  8. Embrace Unique Character
  9. Make it Active

Following Mr. Horst’s remarks, the audience engaged in an interactive survey (Healthy-Places_Questions-Responses) on their opinions about health in the Treasure Valley built environment.

  1.  When asked about mobility and what the Treasure Valley should focus on to improve health outcomes: the most frequent response was public transportation over the other choices of streets and highways, sidewalks and bike lanes-trails.
  2.  When asked about the Treasure Valley’s best assets for promoting healthy lifestyles: the Boise River/greenbelt and the foothills/trail system came out on top.
  3. When asked about the built environment and health and what would have the most impact on supporting healthier
    lifestyles in the Treasure Valley: creating mixed use and walkable suburban neighborhoods won more favor from the audience than in-fill development, development near transit stops, or concentration of development downtown.
  4.  When asked about their personal choice to make healthier lifestyles easier: the ability to walk, followed closely by the ability to use public transportation and protected bike lanes were more favored by the audience.

ULI Member and Past Chair Bob Taunton led a panel of local leaders through a series of questions on health and the built environment. The panel included:

Jim Everett, CEO of the Treasure Valley YMCA

TJ Thomson, Boise City Council Member

Rebecca Lemmons, Policy Analyst, Central District Health

Christopher Roth, CEO, St Luke’s Medical Center

Rebecca Lemmons emphasized that the health condition is an epidemic. We’re producing people that are obese and diseased at an unsustainable level. 80% of our weight is predicated by what we put in our mouths. There is an abundance of fast food outlets in Ada and Canyon counties; 50-55% of restaurants are fast food outlets in this area. There is a need for neighborhood markets. Nutrition environment plays an important part in people’s health.  She also mentioned that the Health District is moving away from just providing education, and participating with other groups to create more healthy environments, like complete streets.

Jim Everett said it is important to think about the average person. The people in this room will ride and work-out anywhere. Our fit are more fit than ever–but our unfit are very unfit. We need to create a culture of health, where it is easy and natural to be fit; not something that you have to think about.  He emphasized the need to play for pure play, not always with a score card. Sports field aren’t going to make the difference. He also mentioned that 82% of the parents in the YMCA program say they are more active with their kids participating in healthy programs.

TJ Thomsen also reflected on the difficult situation. There are many barriers: infrastructure, choice and connectivity. He said rural areas need to be sure that we’re integrating sidewalks now with new developments so in 10-20 years, they’re all connected. There are positive actions, too: The ACHD Neighborhood Walking Plan, the Downtown Bike Share program, the circulator analysis, historical trail markers, and joint use of school facilities.

Chris Roth mentioned the opportunities. St Luke’s is thinking more holistically and with and increasing focus on wellness.

Kristin Armstrong, two time Olympic Gold Medalist in the Time Trial, provided closing remarks. She said with her accomplishments, that she could live anywhere, but she lives in Boise because it supports active lifestyles. She described her work at St Luke as Director of Community Health and the connections she is able to make between the health professionals and the community agencies that are working on wellness. She described a program successful program Kuna that illustrates the need for everyone to have a belief that what they are doing is making a difference.


Ed McMahon, ULI Senior Fellow for Sustainable Development and a senior staff adviser for ULI’s Building Healthy Places Initiative described how ULI globally is working to promote development practices that are conducive to active lifestyles, social interaction and prosperity. His remarks highlighted some interesting statistics:

  • 18% of US GDP is devoted to health
  • Of the industrial nations, the US ranks 51st in life expectancy
  • Fewer than 15% of children walk to school
  • The fastest growing form of transportation is bicycling

He shared some concrete examples of where building healthier places has outperformed the market in sales, where adjacency to green spaces enhances the value of property and where former suburban locations are transforming into walkable, mixed use places. He shared a quote from Dr. Richard Jackson, “Your zip code has a greater impact on your level of health than your genetic code.” Finally he related a recent conversation with a developer in Los Angeles who said that building for healthier places makes sense to him because he could purchase bicycles for all the residents of a new project for less than the cost of a parking space.

 Bob Taunton, Taunton Group and ULI Idaho Past Chair, moderated a panel of local officials:

Hilary Anderson, City of Post Falls Planning and Economic Development Manager

Josh Burton, Kootenai Health, Employee Health and Wellness Manager

Dale Peck, Panhandle Health Department, Environmental Health Division Manager

Kevin Schneidmiller, Greenstone Homes, Land Manager  

Josh Burton said that from a regulatory perspective is should be hard build the wrong way and easy to do the right type of development form a healthy places perspective. His employer takes a holistic approach to health and support employees nutrition, fitness, financial and emotional health.

Kevin Schneidmiller related that his company sees a market demand for smaller units in compact development with walkways, street trees and open space.

Dale Peck shared that the health district is partnering with other agencies to educate and promote good examples of healthy places. He felt a challenge is in how to incentive more healthy environments.

Hilary Anderson talked about the initiatives in Post Falls including the City Smart Code and how using active living standards as part of the project assessment would be a good idea.

Chris Meyer, Parkwood Business Properties, provided closing remarks that highlighted the need to integrate health from the beginning of any development projects.

The Healthy Communities Initiative Council


  • The purpose of Healthy  Community Initiative Council is to ensure that how we grow reflects our deepest values: (1) a vibrant economy; (2) a safe community; and (3) mobility choices.


  • To identify community worthy assignments that foster partnerships with other organizations to mobilize action around common objectives for a healthy community. The intent is for ULI to provide the leadership for a partnership that collectively would have more of a voice in influencing significant decisions than any one organization.


  • To create the foundation for partnership with other real estate and non-traditional partners.
  • To bring together ULI leaders from across the fields of real estate and land use policy to exchange best practices and serve community needs to promote a healthy community
  • To foster collaboration  and mobilize action beyond ULI’s membership on issues, projects, and policies that support a healthier built environment.


  • We envision Healthy  Community Initiative Council as the go-to resource for building healthy places in our valley.

 Guiding Principles

  • Inclusiveness. We will bring together the right stakeholders for  each assignment.  
  • Respect.  We understand  the values of our community.  Our  actions must reflect those values.  We will provide unbiased information to support decision-making.
  • Trust.  We trust the members of our communities to make good decisions about how our communities grow.


  • Influence and catalyze  action on significant land use, transportation and built environment  decisions, both public projects as well as private development that make a real difference in creating a healthier community.
  • Educate the real estate  and broader community on the value of creating a built environment that supports a healthy community, including the following topics:
    • Resilient communities
    • Market demands and forces
    • Capital and the built environment
    • Diversification and urbanization
    • Energy, resource and use sustainability