ULI promotes design of healthful places


HOUSTON -- The nation's fourth-largest metro area is known for its massive traffic jams and two, going on three, freeway circles ringing the city, but Houston also it is committed to improving the health of its residents.

The Bayou Greenways project, first envisioned in 1912, is one tool for doing that, said James Vick of SWA Group.

The city’s complex network of rivers, creeks and bayous are being improved for recreation, undoing the 1950s trend of clearing them of vegetation and paving them with concrete to facilitate storm-water drainage.

Houston voters recently passed a $100 million bond issue to create 300 miles of “Bayou Greenways.” The bond issue calls for matching funds, of which $75 million have been raised.

Thousands of people jammed Bradenton's Riverwalk Thursday evening for the opening ceremonies. (October 18 , 2012 Herald-Tribune Staff Photo by Thomas Bender)

Thousands of people jammed Bradenton's Riverwalk  for the opening ceremonies on Oct. 18 , 2012. Herald-Tribune Staff Photo by Thomas Bender.

The project is among dozens around the country, including in Bradenton and Punta Gorda, that reconnect citizens with their environments. Bradenton’s Riverwalk and Punta Gorda’s Harborwalk are walking trails that lie along waterways, such as the Manatee River and the Peace River.

Government officials realize that the country is in a health crisis related to obesity, said Rachel MacCleery of the Urban Land Institute. The ULI influences city planners to adopt best practices. Designing urban and suburban places that foster human activity and interaction is one way to do that, she said.

The ULI’s “Building Health Places Initiative” encourages the construction and redevelopment of underutilized park spaces. It also has endorsed the Urban Street Design Guide, which makes streets “more humane and healthier for all users” by making them more inviting.

Health is a state of well-being, not the absence of disease, said MacCleery.

Eco-developers are “building for wellness” with housing projects that have facilities for easy-access bike storage, walking paths and gardens. Such features provide value for both developer and owners, and the nation’s overall health, she said.

Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: June 11, 2014
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