On April 12, 2018, ULI Charlotte hosted a CoffeeTalk around healthy places in the built environment. The session focused on creating places that contribute to healthier people and communities and enhancing and preserving value by meeting the growing desires for health-promoting places.
The event was hosted at the new offices of AvidXchange (employer about 1200 team members) located in the Music Factory/North End area. The panel was moderated by Dr. Mark DeHaven of UNC Charlotte and Professor of Public Health Services, with the following panelists: Mike Praeger, AvidXchange, Joe Frey, City of Charlotte, and Tim Sittema, Crosland Southeast.
Dr. DeHaven shared that “The social factors of health refer to the structural determinants and conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.” It is estimated that 80% of the chronic diseases are preventable and 70% of all premature deaths result from social factors. The social determinants of health have a profound effect on the social and physical wellbeing of individuals, families, neighborhoods, and communities, and influence the life chances of individuals and families over the course of their lives. Indeed, the health of communities and individuals can only be sustained through a broad and comprehensive, community-wide approach to promoting health in the workplace, our living spaces, and throughout the community.”
Mike Praeger noted that in his technology business, he knew they needed to find ways to recruit and retain top talented employees. They have integrated such amenities as team-member access onsite to two gyms, multiple exercise classes (including spinning), basketball court, full time nurse practitioners (and hope to gain final approval for a pharmacy), and are well known for ping-pong tournaments and leagues. The benefit they have seen is the ability to recruit top, senior level talent, from other leading technology companies throughout the U.S. What they hope for is to continue to work with the City of Charlotte on connectivity for more active transportation to their location via the greenway (which stops just on the other side of the cemetery and rail road tracks) with hopes to offer bike stations when that time comes. It was a huge switch from offices in Midtown Charlotte (which was walkable to so many restaurants and retail locations) to the Music Factory area, but when the employees saw what the new campus, there was high demand for being at the new location.
In the affordable housing segment, Tim Sittema highlighted the need for community services. As they recently entered the affordable housing space, Crosland Southeast has researched and learned a great deal about the demand for housing, but also the integration with improved education, stable housing, employment opportunities (and vocational training) and access to health care and health-promoting amenities (food, exercise, greenspace). They all go hand-in-hand. Crosland Southeast is working with faith-based communities and striving to be a strong advocate for affordable housing and healthy lifestyles. The business community (employers, real estate, and more) need to come together to find solutions for meeting the growing need for affordable housing and not just push the affordable communities to the fringe of our city. Tim is a strong believer it is critical to integrate the full range of services with affordable housing development for greater long term success.
Joe Frey inspired the audience to think about combining our need for a workout with “getting to places.” Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that at the same time? Charlotte has reached a land use challenge with the city’s continued growth – the more we expand the roads, the more congested we become, and less available land to expand further. In fact, he stated that in 2017, the average driver spends 23 hours in traffic jams each year (see http://inrix.com/scorecard/). The goal in our community is to encourage healthy residents and expand our transportation options. Developers along the light rail and trails have experienced the multi-modal options to automotive transportation. Consider it “lifestyle medicine,” encouraging our community to live active lifestyles. Much like Mike Praeger alluded to for his company’s location in the Music Factory, we need to create connectivity, greenways, paths, to avoid the islands inside the city.