By Jerome Leslie Eben, AIA
AIANJ Regional Director, ’11-‘13
Thanks to Past AIANJ President Michael Hanrahan, AIA, I represented AIANJ on a committee of allied professionals who over the course of a year and half realized a need for a chance to change in how our 566 NJ communities can become healthier. Together we produced a brochure on Healthy Community Design. The committee decided that the goal would be for each committee member to present the brochure to their local Planning Board, Zoning Board of Adjustment and Township/City Council as a way to explain what it means to have a healthy community and what they as our political leaders can do to make it happen?
I also saw it as chance for AIANJ architects to explain to our local political leaders what we do for a living while at the same time helping our home towns become healthier. Below you will find some of my remarks in this regard made to the West Orange Township Council ealier this month. Any of you can use, these or create your own talking points and take the opportunity to make a similar presentation where you live?
We are believers that it takes a bit more than an apple a day to keep the doctor away! I explained that above all DESIGN has an impact through better planning and building of sustainable communities that encourage people to live healthier by making it easier to walk, bike and incorporate mass transit opportunities. In West Orange, I used the example of a need to secure fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods and beverages within easy reach of all neighborhoods.
I explained that an existing depressed and long overdue redeveloped downtown needed to use this opportunity for a new supermarket to be placed in a vacant space. It is here where we have a large population of elderly and new residents who do not have the means to travel far from their apartments or homes. I stated that the list of benefits for healthy community is long, but provides a positive method to reduce obesity, which is associated with chronic diseases and eventual developmental disabilities. It is this fact that will continue to drive up medical costs. I could see by the expression on their faces that these members of my local Council were beginning to understand what I was suggesting. Suggesting how the evaluation of the vacant space would translate into the proper facility for the population in need.
As architects and planners We have begun to realize that recently we have seen more and more people join a movement back to our cities; towns and villages where we believe the incorporation of smart and sustainable design principles may if we look hard enough, can be found. We are looking at preserving the urban centers that promotes managed growth while enhancing the individual neighborhood identity and all the time presenting outstanding architecture.
We believe that government officials at every level can contribute to the existing momentum by passing laws and formulating initiatives that create environmentally sensitive pedestrian friendly livable and accessible communities.
We all can give shape to The American Dream in the design of our neighborhoods where we live, the buildings where we work, the places where we play, celebrate and reflect.
As an architect and a planner I have been involved in creating spaces for worship, hospitals for healing, schools for learning, places to eat, and places to shop all over this great country of ours. Together with my colleagues our hope is to bring a better life into brick and mortar reality of a healthier community. Buildings are architecture and architecture forms the communities we call home. The quality of life we enjoy depends on well designed buildings in vibrant communities like ours. Our architecture helps communities create and maintain jobs.
I ended my presentation with the need for members of the West Orange Township Council to become educated on how we can better OUR community based on good design and planning concepts.
I have ordered some more of these brochures and if you would like a few to take to your local officials for a chance to explain what you do for a living, send me an E-mail and I will put them in the mail to you the very next day.