This is the fifth blog on issues to be addressed at the 55th International Making Cities Livable Conference, May 14-18, 2018, in Ottawa. Significant improvements to neighborhood health require strategies to muster public will and mobilize resources. Here are a few of the effective strategies that will be shared at the Conference.

Perhaps the most important urban policy work today, proposes Jacob Ritchie, Urban Design Manager for Halifax, NS, is how to promote appropriate change in established neighborhoods. Halifax Regional Municipality recently prepared two landmark plans for strengthening and creating 10-minute neighborhoods. The first was tasked with bringing residential uses back into the Central Business District, and the second was tasked with integrating a variety of uses into established residential areas. Ritchie will discuss different planning tools and processes to successfully implement new policy, and share lessons learned.

Canadian cities and regions have been working diligently to integrate public health and planning efforts. Peel Public Health is recognized as a leader in positioning health as a sustainable consideration in the land use development process. These efforts have resulted in the development and implementation of the Healthy Development Assessment (HDA), an evidence-informed tool that assesses the health-promoting potential of applicable development applications. This work has also led to the creation of a supportive Regional policy framework, which requires the completion of a health assessment for applicable development applications.

This presentation by Andrea Dear and Althaf Farouque will provide an overview of this approach to health and the built environment, including consultation and collaboration with municipalities, and implementation of the HDA. The presentation will include case studies and examples to demonstrate the potential of such tools, lessons learned and next steps.

The Region of Peel and the City of Mississauga are collaborating on a policy project called ‘Reimagining the Mall’, which will develop and implement policies to guide the long-term development of six unique areas toward becoming healthier and more complete communities. The six areas, which are anchored by indoor shopping malls, included in the study represent a significant opportunity for future redevelopment that includes intensification, a mix of uses, integration with transit, and active transportation. Jordan Lee and Sebastian van Gilst will highlight how community “walking audits” were developed to help planning staff make informed decisions about healthy built environment considerations for future policies for shopping mall areas.

The City of Waterloo is reducing dependence on the automobile by creating policies, developing strategies, and building infrastructure to encourage cycling, walking and transit use. The City’s Official Plan provides the legislative authority to support a Complete Street Policy, create livable mixed-use neighborhoods, engage citizens, and protect the natural environment.  A panel from Waterloo will outline the following topics: Creating Policy (Louise Finlay, Project Manager, Bikeways, Trails and Greenspaces); Mustering the Political Will (Councillor Diane Freeman); and Getting it Done (Chris Dedman, Traffic Project Manager).

How can municipal governments successfully address big public policy challenges without losing sight of their bread and butter: improving the quality of life for their citizens? Using five objects as a starting point - bicycle, watering can, library card, coffee cup and folding chair - Ottawa City Councillor Tobi Nussbaum will identify and elaborate on 10 actions that municipal governments the world over can take to achieve livable communities and sustainable cities in a way that improves residents’ health and happiness. 

Christopher Janson, LRK Inc, will present the Jackson, TN master plan for neighborhood revitalization to prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity that are caused by environmental conditions. The plan identified locations for strategic infill and rehabilitation of single-family homes, multifamily units, social gathering places, and neighborhood-serving retail buildings.

In Kitchener, ON, Neighbourhood Development Officer Darren Kropf will describe their city-wide “Love My Hood” program, a strategy to encourage residents to take the lead in shaping their neighborhood, while the city supports them along the way.

Development & Infrastructure Commissioner Stan Schwartzenberger will discuss the implementation tools used in Medicine Hat to encourage mixed use and walkability downtown and in surrounding residential neighborhoods.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is leading a national initiative to promote a 10-minute walk connection to parks and green public spaces for every person in every city in America. Hanaa Hamdi, TPL’s National Public Health Director will discuss the concept, partnership building, policies, and implementation and health impact assessments.

When we make improvements in walkability and transit, do we create gentrification and unaffordability?  Devon McAslan, Doctoral Candidate in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Michigan will address this issue in relation to public transportation and village planning in Seattle: does it lead to sustainable neighborhoods?

Public schools are essential to creating healthy and sustainable 10-minute neighborhoods, asserts Patricia Collins, Associate Professor, Queen's University. They are frequented daily, they serve as sites for community events and services for people of all ages, and they build community social capital. She will discuss the consequences of Kingston’s decision to close Ontario’s oldest high school on community stability and quality of life of residents living in one of the five neighborhoods located in the school’s catchment area.

The fundamental question we must all ask ourselves is, what kind of a city do we want? Do we value standardized cities - “GMO cities” as Urban Designer and Researcher at SOM and Harvard, Alexandro Medina Lara terms them - that are promoted as more efficient, but are in fact more efficient machines for reaping corporate profits? Or do we value the unique identity of our cities and neighborhoods, that celebrate individual creativity and community collaboration? Where do our priorities lie? 

In previous blogs we have described guiding principles, some of the new human scale neighborhoods from around the world, transformational neighborhood case studies, and opportunities and challenges, that will be presented at the 55th IMCL Conference. The next blog describes some of the tools that have successfully been used to achieve Healthy, 10-Minute Neighborhoods. Join the discussion!