ULI Washington News

Recap: 17-18 Leadership Institute, Day 7, Health and Livability

Day 5 of the Leadership Institute commenced with Diane Caslow, Vice President at Medstar Health, humbly recounting her leadership journey in an intimate interview conducted by Christina Sorrento, Associate General Counsel at M-NCPPC.  Being an extrovert in an introverted family and always doing things differently, she recognized herself as a leader early in life.  Diane played sports for first time in college (ice hockey no less) and became Vice President of a hospital by the age of 34.  Reminding the group how we exhibit or ‘try on’ leadership qualities every day by volunteering to do something, learning from our mistakes, or observing good and bad leaders and figuring out what works.  Her background as an occupational therapist and extensive reading on organizational theory developed her people skills.  Connecting with people has been key to her success as a leader.  By listening well, getting to know the person versus the demographic, and understanding where people are coming from and what drives them develops a relationship that will inspire people.  Diane went on to describe a collaboration leadership style emphasizing approaches that would improve meeting performance and decision-making such as starting a meeting with the good news and ‘what’s right about this’, mixing up the team to break up group-think and sitting side by side (parallel) to an adversary derailing some positional power.  It’s also important to not attack someone but to take their bias and use it to make them think of something differently.  Her wandering career allowed her to discover her other interests including her passion for historic and old buildings, starting a blog and becoming a leader in a historic association.  Finally, she emphasized the importance of finding protective space.

Following a short break, a presentation on ULI’s Building Healthy Places by Rachel MacCleery (ULI) described how the historical role the built environment has played in influencing or reflecting health policy and that the future of real estate can be part of the solution to correct the chronic disease trend in the US population.  The initiative will work on measuring health outcomes, partnering, integrating health into the initial stages of development and supporting city health initiatives (private investments in parks and open spaces, parking and zoning reform to promote some of these health outcomes).  While only 10% of health is driven by healthcare, the built environment includes numerous factors that influence health: Water, Food, Air, Housing, Parks/Nature, Transportation and Social Interaction.  Understanding that this requires a paradigm shift, Rachel outlined practical approaches to promote health and wellness and make health front of mind in real estate – a kin to sustainability.  Three key recommendations include Physical Activity, Healthy Food and Healthy Environment and Social Well-being.  Employing features as well-lit trails, secured indoor bicycle storage, on-site gardening and farming would influence more physical activity and healthy food choices.  Other features from example projects included maximizing indoor lighting quality and incorporating low quality triggers (duct less HVAC system, no carpeting, salt-water pool, no smoking).  For Healthy Environment and Social Well-being, the group was introduced to a new ULI program, 10 Minute Walk Campaign, in partnership with Trust for Public Land.  Violeta Duncan (ULI) explained the campaign’s focus on equitable access to parks, also defined as spaces open to the sky such as parklets and land bridges.  Among other things, the group learned about the financial benefits realized from increased property value and sales taxes and savings from healthier lifestyles.

Following the Healthy Places presentation, the group participated in the Marshmallow Challenge, an exercise about leadership and the nature of collaboration, led by Deborah Kerson Bilek (ULI).  After the group completed the exercise, they watched a TED video and then discussed how their assumptions impacted their team’s approach to the exercise.  Key takeaways include the importance of the iterative process and having instant feedback, perceptions of risks and failing impact approach and testing of prototypes, and identifying hidden assumptions about the skills needed for success.  Specialized skills + Facilitation skills = Success.

Following lunch, the theme was continued with a panel discussion about measuring health outcomes and ways health and wellness principles are incorporated into projects.  Moderated by Robert Goodill, Torti Gallas + Partners, the panel included Miriam Kenyon, District of Columbia Public Schools, Evan Goldman, EYA and Erik Aulestia, Torti Gallas + Partners.  The panel discussion started off with each panelist making a presentation.  The common underlying theme from each presentation is how the lack of walkability and accessibility has a direct relationship to behavior.  Evan described how they are applying their development principle “life within walking distance” to the suburbs and introducing urban features into the suburban environment, coined ‘suburban repair’.  Pedestrian orientation, safe and comfortable sidewalks, bike infrastructure and trails are important components to successful community design however, an important stakeholder is not utilizing this new infrastructure.  Miriam described that while DC is the 2nd healthiest city for adults, it has the 11th highest obesity rates for kids.  Bike in the Park Cornerstone is a DC initiative focused on teaching students how to ride bicycles.  She described how students will learn new skills and perhaps become lifetime users of city’s bike infrastructure.  Bike in the Park, along with DDOT’s Vision Zero, an initiative that includes the construction of traffic gardens where the community learns about pedestrian and bike safety, tie into the efficacy of community design.  Torti Gallas emphasized the importance of how community design affects behavior and how behavior affects health choices.  The group discussed some financing and regulatory challenges to making health infrastructure investments and the public and private sector roles in overcoming these challenges.   Now more than ever, we have access to data and tools to aid and inform real estate decisions such as Walk Score (Torti Gallas is also working with Walk Score to create a predicative walk score), Community Health Report Card and certification programs such as Fitwell, Certified Healthy and Well.

The day was topped off with a tour led by Scott Kratz, Director of 11th Street Bridge Park and Vaugh Perry, Equitable Development Manager, 11th Street Bridge Park of the newest building addition at THEARC.  Conceived of by Chris Smith of the William C. Smith, THEARC, a community anchor, is approximately 16 acres and includes two major buildings, a playground and a garden.  The group toured the Black Box theater and a branch of the Phillips Collection, which offers interactive art stations for residents, students and caregivers to partake in art therapy and find some stress relief.  Next, the director of the Bishop Walker, a tuition free, private school previously operating out of two locations in the District, greeted and walked us through their new space.  As the 82 students started to fill the hallways, we visited light-filled dedicated spaces for science, music, arts and the library.  The tour concluded with a walk through of the new Medstar facility.  Rachel MacCleery concluded her presentation with a question: What do people need to thrive?  THEARC provides an answer and served as the ideal physical embodiment to the day’s theme.

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