Saturday 26 October 2013

What does universal design look like in your neighborhood? Here is a look in progress...

As a practicing Realtor, it is no secret that a big motivator for people shopping for residential living space, is whether or not things are within easy reach, and not necessarily by car.  That is why building--or rebuilding--homes and communities where people can walk or roll to where they need to go, is so important.  Especially in this day and age when there is much buzz about obesity, active living and ozone levels. 

Richmond Heights, a suburb in the east central section of St. Louis County, Missouri knows how important it is.  In fact, they have been working to get their township on the road to healthier living for many years now and finally broke ground this past week on their streetscaping initiative : The Dale Avenue Great Streets Project. A project that is not just recognizing alternative modes of transportation but encouraging them by it's very being. There are bike lanes, bulb outs, curb cuts and crosswalks that are there for safety as much as they are to provide access.

Positioned as a main traffic artery and alternative route between city and county, Dale Avenue and all its improvements provide the mixed use corridor that solidifies the viability of this project as an added asset of the community.  This is a prime example of a "Build it and they will use it because there are plenty of places to go" thought process.  This forward thinking community started assembling this staged production back in 2007 using a grass roots approach beginning with public open houses, land studies, and neighborhood workshops, giving citizens and stakeholders that would ultimately benefit from this type of improvement, a chance to contribute directly and be involved at the ground level. End users were asked, they gave, and now their ideas are being implemented on previously under-utilized easement. What more can taxpayers ask for?  Community involvement pays off.

How does this relate to universal design? This is universal design. It is an example of designing for health, wellness and social participation, some of the goals of UD.  It is seamless incorporation of elements that wil benefit all and it is being done as a team working together to see it come to fruition.

These kinds of civic improvements have a positive and ongoing socio-economic impact.  They make active transportation more accessible for all residents and this cultivates community growth by promoting social activity within neighborhoods.  It reduces transportation costs by providing safe access to alternative transportation routes, which ultimately leads to improved health and well being, reducing healthcare costs for individuals and reducing the burden on the healthcare system at large.  Not to mention it leaves people money for other things, like supporting local business. It keeps people in the community longer by making it easy for them to get around to the amenities the community has to offer.

This morning while out on my field study taking photos for this blog post, I met with some less than favorable opinions about this development activity.  One property owner thought it was an unnecessary use of tax dollars on top of an unsightly mess for property owners.  My only comments to this--and granted I am not the one dealing with a direct disruption--is that minor setbacks lead to major improvements so hopefully those that are being inconvenienced will realize the long term benefits community wide improvements like this have on private property values.  It is a win-win.  This is most definitely not a waste of taxpayer money at all.  It is wise appropriation of funds that are available from the government for this sort of community wide improvement activity.   It would be waste of resources not to take advantage of it, especially when there is a demonstrated need.  

Curb appeal sells and the value-view stretches far beyond where easement and sidewalk take over.  If you are a property owner trying to sell  your home during the seemingly unsightly production stage of this project, look for the beauty in what the finished product means for the marketability of your property.  It is a selling point! You most definitely are not going to be lying when you say you live on a "great street"...just make sure it is in the marketing remarks because that is music to a buyer's ears.

I captured an odd assortment of pics from today and am calling this haphazard gallery of photos: "Looking Beyond The Obvious".  There is much beauty to behold about these photos because this is a perfect demonstration of progress as promised.

As a frequent traveler along Dale Avenue I look forward to watching this progressive action as it happens.  And I will definitely keep you posted!

In the meantime...Go Cards!!.  They just won Game Three of The World Series and that last run was a real nail biter! Woo hoo!!!!  


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