Effort Seeks to Transform Declining Commercial Corridors into Vibrant Destinations
WASHINGTON (March 16, 2016) – The Urban Land Institute (ULI), a global research and education institute dedicated to responsible land use and building thriving, sustainable communities, has been awarded an $250,000 grant from The Kresge Foundation to support a new initiative, Creative Placemaking in Communities in America. Through this program, the Institute will examine how to revive declining urban areas such as obsolete commercial corridors through innovative placemaking that transforms soulless clusters of underutilized space into thriving, vibrant destinations.
While ULI has long promoted creative placemaking as a key component of prosperous, thriving communities, its most recent efforts in this area have focused on the revitalization of commercial corridors. In 2014, ULI’s Building Healthy Places Initiative, the Rose Center for Public Leadership, and the Institute’s District Council network collaborated on an effort to define the characteristics of a healthy corridor and develop models and approaches for health-focused redevelopment that can be replicated in other cities.
The project involves demonstration corridors in four cities: Denver, Boise, Los Angeles, and Nashville. The challenges of these corridors are illustrative of similar strips in urban areas across America — a lack of sidewalks and bike paths, a predominance of fast-food and convenience stores, high speed limits, and high-volume car traffic. In addition to these problems, fragmented ownership of land parcels along each corridor and multiple jurisdictions exercising oversight make it difficult to pursue sweeping changes in a timely fashion. Through the project, which concludes this year, ULI is identifying best practices for revitalization through placemaking that restores a sense of community and inclusiveness.
The grant from The Kresge Foundation will build on this work, which has a dual focus: physical improvements to the corridors themselves, and better health outcomes of residents living adjacent to them. Households in neighborhoods near commercial strips tend to have lower incomes and show higher rates of chronic disease, caused in part by a lack of access to fresh food and opportunities for physical activity. Using the Kresge grant, ULI will demonstrate how to transform isolated, polluted auto-dependent commercial arterial roads into vibrant, safe, environmentally friendly and healthy places that better serve all residents of adjacent communities.
“The generous support from The Kresge Foundation is greatly enhancing the scale and scope of ULI’s work in creative placemaking,” said ULI Global Chief Executive Officer Patrick L. Phillips. “We’re very excited about the opportunity to delve deeper into a challenge faced by cities around the world — how to turn blighted areas into highly livable places that attract investment and development. This is ULI at its best, sharing practical and tactical knowledge to improve the quality of life for all residents in urban areas.”
Among ULI’s best practices of creative placemaking are those that leverage the value of local assets, lift up arts and cultural talents, and celebrate a community’s unique characteristics and authenticity. With the Kresge grant, ULI will hire a visiting fellow to assess and integrate creative placemaking across ULI’s program of work. The Institute will broadly share information about effective approaches and lessons learned, and it will engage ULI’s district councils to create and implement projects that leverage arts and culture among other strategies to improve commercial corridors and create places that foster civic pride.
The latest grant from the Kresge Foundation is in addition to previous Kresge grants totaling $1.6 million that were awarded to ULI to advance the Institute’s work on improving the resilience of urban areas and communities and highlighting the role of the built environment in combating the impacts of climate change. “We are honored to continue working with The Kresge Foundation to make a positive difference in people’s lives through better communities,” Phillips said.
About the Urban Land Institute
The Urban Land Institute is a nonprofit education and research institute supported by its members. Its mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide. Established in 1936, the Institute has more than 37,000 members worldwide representing all aspects of land use and development disciplines.
About The Kresge Foundation
The Kresge Foundation is a $3.5 billion private, national foundation that works to expand opportunities in America’s cities through grantmaking and investing in arts and culture, education, environment, health, human services, community development in Detroit. In 2014, the Board of Trustees approved 408 awards totaling $242.5 million. That included a $100 million award to the Foundation for Detroit’s Future, a fund created to soften the impact of the city’s bankruptcy on pensioners and safeguard cultural assets at the Detroit Institute of Arts. A total of $138.1 million was paid out to grantees over the course of the year. In addition, the Social Investment Practice made commitments totaling $20.4 million in 2014. For more information, go to kresge.org.