Sketching Health

Selling a picture of better health to developers, community leaders, zoning officials and others requires an artist’s touch combined with a clear sense of neighborhood realities. Here we present a gallery of healthy building ideas.

Aria Multigenerational Apartments - Northwest Denver

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An early bid for success at the massive Aria redevelopment of a former Catholic nuns’ retreat, these apartments by OZ Architecture are “green” inside and out. Doorways set close to each other encourage community and provide interesting pedestrian streetscapes. An interior courtyard draws residents outdoors and provides relaxing views for those less mobile. Overhangs on these west-facing views cut solar heat and helped achieve LEED Platinum status.


Boulevard One - Lowry

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“Making car travel almost unnecessary” is one of the slogans offered by the Lowry Redevelopment Authority about its last major new neighborhood on the former air base. Boulevard One’s layout puts homes at many economic levels within walking distance of shops, offices and recreation space. Bike and pedestrian routes are highlighted throughout, with clear paths to green space and gathering commons. Design Workshop is the urban planning firm on the project.


Cherry Creek North Streetscape - Denver

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Architect Chris Dunn of Dunn + Kiley has helped write guidebooks that illustrate the “10 Principles” of healthy building emphasized by the Urban Land Institute. This piece of Steele Street makes walking inviting by providing a “ceiling” of trees and umbrellas, a “floor” of sidewalk and lawn, and “walls” from tree trunks and patio walls. The mix is visually appealing and draws the pedestrian along.


Pocket Park Project - Walsenburg

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Community health leaders and economic development officials in Walsenburg are collaborating to create a new public movement and gathering space in what is now a hot, dusty parking lot. This pocket park is passed by thousands of cars a week, and planners hope to stop a few cars with an oasis, while giving local residents a new gem to walk to. Architecture students from the University of Colorado Denver have sketched ideas incorporating local mining history, including this drawing of mineshaft timbers creating shade for a farmers market.


Aria Denver - Northwest Denver

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Aria, on the former Sisters of St. Francis property near Regis University, is a chance to bring to a new area some of the same thoughtful master planning used at Stapleton and Lowry. Susan Powers of Urban Ventures LLC co-leads the project with Perry-Rose LLC. Mixed levels of affordable and luxury housing, large urban gardens and farm-to-table production space, community education areas and a walkable layout headline the concepts.


Mariposa IV Staircase - Studio Completiva

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Other pictures in the magazine illustrate a carefully designed “active staircase” at the third phase of the Mariposa/Lincoln Denver housing redevelopment. Another active staircase is planned for Phase IV of the rebuild, incorporating more community features to get people moving up and down. This early design brainstormed a garden wall with usable growing herbs, sound tubes and colored lights activated by a hand crank.


Water’s Edge Proposal - Fort Collins

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Developer Bill Swalling of Skyland Meadows Developments argues that winning more density from city planners doesn’t mean huge new car traffic for a neighborhood. His proposal for a multigenerational housing community claims the right design can actually reduce traffic with walkable distances to community education centers, recreation, shops and open space. Tom Lyon of Wolff Lyon Architects says designers need to include shade for sidewalks and the right curb cuts for bikes.


This article was originally published in the Summer 2014 issue of Health Elevations.