The Delaware General Health District conducted an HIA of the proposed 350,000-square-foot Simon Property Group and Tanger Outlets Premium Outlet Mall to be built on approximately 50 acres in Berkshire Township, Ohio. Because of the planned development’s very large geographic footprint in a mostly rural area with access to a nearby interstate, residents expressed concerns about the traffic capacity of the existing interchange and rural roads. The HIA also explored potential health impacts related to increased opportunities for walking to and within the development site and improved connectivity to existing walking and biking trails.
The HIA found that the Premium Outlet Mall development has the potential to improve health in Berkshire Township through increased opportunities for physical activity, provided that connectivity recommendations are taken into consideration and implemented in a future township Comprehensive Plan. The HIA also found that increased traffic around the development could contribute to an increase in motor vehicle injuries and fatalities.
The HIA recommended that the outlet mall plan adopt Complete Streets policies, traffic-calming measures, and other street-design standards to create safe roadways for all users; a bike-transit integration study to create sustainable mobility to and around the proposed mall, increase accessibility, and promote active transportation; adequate lighting on roadways, along trails, and in green space; the installation of emergency call boxes or cameras, in addition to regular policing; and healthy community design features such as tobacco-free policies and providing healthy food and beverage options in the mall area.
This effort is part of the National Association of County and City Health Officials Health Impact Assessment Mentorship Project. The mentors were Andrea Hamberg and Brendon Haggerty of the Oregon Health Authority.
The HIA recommended that the development of the Tanger Outlets Mall incorporate pedestrian-friendly designs and connectivity to walking and biking trails. This includes adopting street design standards that give priority to safe, easy access for pedestrians. The HIA also recommended that greenspace and recreational areas be conserved. The HIA process allowed for collaboration among stakeholders, including county commissioners, the Simon Group developer, engineers, the state’s Departments of Transit and Health, township trustees, the Regional Planning Commission, the Park District, and community residents. Various members of these groups had worked together on other community projects and had established a sense of mutual trust and credibility, which the health department said allowed it to openly discuss some of its health concerns. Ultimately, the HIA influenced the outlet mall developer’s decision to include more pedestrian and bike-friendly infrastructure.