Community-initiated urban development: an ecological intervention

J Urban Health. 2007 Jan;84(1):8-20. doi: 10.1007/s11524-006-9124-8.


Neglected urban environments have been linked to social isolation, depression, and other health problems. In Portland, OR in 2003, an intervention was implemented and evaluated in three neighborhoods with the objective of promoting community participation in urban renewal and engaging residents in the construction of attractive urban places. Municipal officials approved and permitted community-designed street murals, public benches, planter boxes, information kiosks with bulletin boards, trellises for hanging gardens, all positioned in the public right-of-way. Residents within a two-block radius of the three sites were systematically sampled and interviewed before (N = 325) and after (N = 349) the intervention, of which, 265 individuals completed both surveys of the panel study. After the intervention, multivariate results revealed improvements in mental health (p = 0.03), increased sense of community (p < 0.01), and an overall expansion of social capital (p = 0.04). Through community empowerment, participation, and collective action, the strategy successfully engaged residents in restoring neighborhoods, with direct benefits to community well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Community Participation / methods*
  • Ecology*
  • Environment Design*
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Health Promotion / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Social Environment
  • Urban Health
  • Urban Renewal / organization & administration*