Creating Healthier Spaces
Change is coming to Philadelphia’s Tioga neighborhood. TPP Capital Management Group, based in Center City, is planning to redevelop 139 acres over five city blocks with retail and commercial spaces with food entrepreneurs, health-care services, and a job training center.
The project will include more than 1,400 residences — housing for students and senior citizens and condominiums for middle-income service workers.
Motivated by improving the well-being of the area’s residents, TPP has designed a fully integrated health and wellness community, to be centered at Broad Street and Allegheny Avenue, with access to fresh food, fresh air, and outdoor public spaces.
“We know that spaces can either welcome people in or make people feel disengaged and that the notion of health and well-being as a choice is a myth,” said Rachel Hodgdon, president and CEO of the International Well Building Institute (IWBI), which advocates measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health.
“Much of that has more to do with your zip code than your genetic code. The pandemic taught us that low-income communities suffered disproportionately.”
In Tioga, 85% of the residents are Black, with more than 40% suffering from high blood pressure and obesity and almost a fifth with diabetes, according to research by TPP. In this freshfood desert, where the median income is $17,052, 42% of people live in poverty, and the unemployment rate is 18%.
And that was before the pandemic hit.
“This particular neighborhood has the worst health disparities in the city, and the Well certification was the final piece of a goal we set out in 2015 to design a tech-forward, fully integrated health and wellness focused district,” said Anthony Miles, fund manager and principal at TPP Capital, a social impact private equity fund manager and urban health-care real estate development firm. “The impetus was to reduce the social determinants of health and build upon the 142,000-square-foot preventative health hub that Clinton Bush and I co-architected.”
Possibly not as well-known as LEED, the widely used green building rating system for environmental responsibility, Well focuses on human health and wellbeing within the physical environment.
Although the Tioga District will be the first local community seeking Well certification, several Philadelphia buildings and office spaces have already received the accreditation, including University City’s FMC Building, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Nasdaq office at 29th and Walnut Streets. JPMorgan Chase at Logan Square in Center City and Drexel Square at 30th and Market Streets are pursuing certification.
“Your physical and social environment — where you sit and who you sit next to — have a greater bearing on your health and well-being than your access to health care, your genetics and your lifestyle and behaviors combined,” Hodgden said.
The Tioga redevelopment will add many of the wellness attributes other neighborhoods take for granted. Streets and sidewalks will be improved, and public art installed. Trees will mitigate heat on summer days, and air and water purification will be part of all residential, commercial and office spaces.