Public health is no longer solely the business of health professionals. Planners and engineers also play a vital role in a community’s health.
If we are what we eat, it can also be said we are what we build. Look around Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville. What do these cities and suburbs reveal about their planners, real estate investors and residents? A simple observation: cars rule.
They are all prime examples of what resulted from the increase in automobile ownership in the 1950s and 1960s. Subsequent zoning laws encouraged low-density, disconnected street networks and the replacement of sidewalks with extra lanes for more cars. More than a half century later, the only way to get from one place to another continues to be by car, not by foot.
The consequences are being felt today with the rise in obesity, diabetes and depression negatively impacting our economy, as well as our health. Good news: there’s a way to fix it. Better news: experts and local officials are already working on it.
The Parramore Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan is the first local plan of its type to incorporate healthy community principles in a program to revitalize an inner city community.
In Orlando, the Parramore Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan — the first local plan of its type to incorporate healthy community principles in a program to revitalize an inner city community — serves as a blueprint for the healthy community concept. In January, the Orlando City Council accepted the plan created through collaboration with the community, the City of Orlando’s planning staff, and VHB to be the “next great Orlando neighborhood.” Jackson, who worked at the CDC for 15 years and has chaired the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Environmental Health, contributed to the plan.
It’s built around existing city assets, such as the local shuttle line and SunRail, and upcoming new investments, including a K-8 community school, Orlando Magic entertainment complex, Orlando Lions’ soccer stadium and further development of Orlando’s Creative Village. The plan also recommends major public safety changes, including surveillance cameras and community policing; a community school and higher education hub within Creative Village; new mixed-income infill housing in the K-8 school renaissance zone; the establishment of a Parramore Avenue historic corridor; and creating an Orange Blossom Trail/Church Street Gateway anchored by a grocery store.
“The bottom line for Parramore is the school,” Sellen says. “When you look at healthy community design, a school is really the heart of the neighborhood.”
The Parramore school will be pre-K through eighth grade. “Research shows education at the pre-kindergarten level is critical to a child’s success in not only school, but in life,” Sellen emphasizes.
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