REACH Research Story @ Nashville

Members of the REACH team had an opportunity to visit a multifamily development in Nashville, TN, in June 2018. With a tagline, “mindful, healthy living made easy” this was an ideal development to explore “how” and “why” health strategies can be intentionally integrated into multifamily housing. The development in its entirety, almost 20 total acres, will be home to office, multifamily, and commercial properties- including onsite medical facilities. The development’s commitment to health and sustainability is notable – its site design, infrastructure, transportation and building design have been planned to attain LEED Neighborhood Development (LEED ND) certification.

Exterior health-promoting features are evident despite the ongoing construction. For example, there is already abundant green space with walking trails, a community lawn that acts as home base for group fitness classes, and onsite outdoor recreation facilities suitable for sand volleyball and CrossFit. The multifamily building is intentionally facing a landscaped area with a retention pond to promote restoration through biophilic properties. Sidewalks and bike lanes provide seamless connections from the site into the surrounding community, connecting to one of the largest parks in Nashville, as well as a primary bicycle corridor leading downtown.

Interior features host various amenities that prioritize the health of all occupants. Accessible and inviting stairwells, a two-story fitness center overlooking green space and pond, and a library filled with health-related books are some of the features that promote health behaviors and mindful living. Within the residential units themselves, circadian lighting has been installed throughout. Research shows that this type of lighting influences certain physiological responses and incorporating it throughout units may act as an external cue to better align the biological clocks of residents.

From a programming perspective, REACH learned that the development offers many additional opportunities for health promotion, enhancing the built environment. The fitness center has personal fitness sessions available morning and evening for residents, nutrition counseling, group fitness classes, on-demand fitness courses, discounts at onsite, local restaurants which feature healthy options, and a concert series to promote social and leisure activities. These opportunities have no additional cost to residents; instead, the developer increased rent command towards the higher end of comparable units in the Nashville market.  The REACH team is interested in learning if this increased rent will affect lease-up rates and tenure. According to the developer, leasing is already ahead of schedule, possibly indicating that willingness to pay for healthy living is a competitive option.

Perhaps one of the most interesting early findings the REACH team discovered was the developer’s commitment to community health. Outdoor amenities are openly accessible for its community neighbors. This was an intentional decision and a strategy that guided the decision to construct the sand volleyball and CrossFit facilities first, before breaking ground on the other buildings. This decision served as an open invitation to the community of Nashville, increasing awareness of the development plan as well as highlighting its commitment to providing facilities to be physically active for everyone in the area.  The development and its corresponding health vision has the potential to become a health-promotive destination within close proximity of Nashville’s city center.

The REACH team is excited to continue exploring and understanding the design, construction, and operation of this early-adopter example using a health lens. It was illuminating to hear the story from the developer perspective and see it in action within early phases of construction.