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Urban Designers and Residents Come Together for Walkability

By SA2020 | Jun 21 2016

Our friends at Salud America, a national program headquartered at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, are committed to ending childhood obesity. They do so by promoting healthy choices and encouraging everyone to create change in their schools and communities. Salud America loves to celebrate those change makers, known as Salud Heroes, and share how they’ve acted as champions of health. The most recent Salud Heroes brought change to our side of San Antonio, making Dignowity Hill more walkable and, in turn, creating a healthier neighborhood.

When Nicolas Rivard and Allison Hu of Overland Partners learned about upcoming construction projects on Cherry Street, they were disappointed to learn that landscaping, lighting, and other elements had been removed from the plans. In a neighborhood shaped more by railroad and industry than by public spaces, Nicolas and Allison believed in the value of making Cherry Street a connected, appealing, and walkable street. As we know, a neighborhood’s walkability is associated with health, economic, and environmental benefits. If the urban designers could find a way to transform the street, it would be a win for everyone.

To find the resources needed for the project, Nicolas and Allison relied on civic engagement. They encouraged Dignowity Hill residents to talk with city officials, learn about how the local government functions, and get involved in the process. Nicolas then created an online petition asking that the City add protected sidewalks, street trees, and additional landscaping to the construction plans. In February of this year, City Council signed off on the request to add additional money to the Cherry Street project.

The street improvements, currently under development, will now incorporate the ideas from Nicolas, Allison, and landscape architect Herminio Griego. By creating a shaded, more walkable street, Dignowity Hill is on its way to becoming safer and healthier. And while Nicolas, Allison, and Overland were the driving force behind the plans, it wouldn’t have been possible without the participation of the residents. As Salud Heroes explains, this process “empowers community members, while building urban literacy and equipping residents with strategies to get involved.”

To Overland Partners, the residents of Dignowity Hill, and the City of San Antonio: thanks for your commitment to Cherry Street and this exciting project! Collaborations and stories like these are so essential to our progress as a city on the rise.

Video by Salud Heroes. Read more about the project at Salud America’s Community Commons. Vote in the #SaludHeroes contest here.

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