I grew up several miles outside a rapidly growing community in central Minnesota. As a teenager I remember watching as suburban development crept ever closer to our family’s farm, meanwhile they kept tearing down all the old buildings in the Downtown area. I always wondered what forces were at play that caused perfectly good buildings to be abandoned and torn down, while viable farm land was getting eaten up by the same businesses and institutions who were leaving Downtown.
I pursued an undergraduate degree in architecture, another interest of mine, but continued to be fascinated by the ways cities grew and developed. Architectural practice never really held my interest, and eventually I decided to pursue my Masters and two opportunities to work on Health Impact Assessments, once as part of a class on “Planning for Healthy Communities” and again in my second studio.
In my professional career I’ve found the knowledge of how development impacts public health to be very important. While we might not all agree about housing density, parking standards, building heights, downtown-vs-suburban development, or the location of a bicycle trail, health is a common denominator. When you can relate how decisions impact health there’s a great in-road in the conversation. Talking about health is also a great opportunity to broaden the scope of project funding. I recently got a $10,000 grant for the City of Jeffersonville, to plant trees along a designated walking route when I had a chance meeting an organization working to improve air quality for residents in the area. We are excited to put the $10,000 we’ll be saving on landscaping toward adding other amenities along the route.