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JU selected as Official Academic Partner of The District to study community’s effects on health

The partners behind The District—Life Well Lived Jacksonville, the 30-acre master-planned development on the St. Johns River, announced today that Jacksonville University has been selected to be the Official Academic Partner of The District.

Under the partnership, JU’s Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences (BRCHS) will research and measure the effectiveness of The District’s healthy town concept, an entirely new approach in community living. The BRCHS research team will be the exclusive academic research consultant to assist The District in gaining evidence-based outcomes for the healthy living benefits of The District.

“We intentionally designed The District to offer residents every element they need to live the healthiest of lives, and we want to be able to empirically and qualitatively prove that having access to and utilizing all of these resources in one place does in fact help make people healthier,” said Peter Rummell, co-founder of The District development with partner Michael Munz. “The research that BRCHS will conduct will seek to provide credibility to this unique concept and show evidence-based outcomes to participating in The District’s programs.”

The District is designed for Generation H, a generation defined not by age but by the common belief that the most fulfilling, most productive of lives are achieved by healthy living. This applies to personal habits and the entire live, work, play environment that The District is creating to promote good health and happiness. Beyond the bike paths, fitness centers and daily activity, The District will feature the innovative Base Camp to offer a wealth of services, including yoga classes and personal health counseling to community gardening and a health concierge.

“We are excited to offer our proprietary expertise to the outstanding leadership team of The District. A critical part of our mission is to collaborate with our community as we develop the next generation of talent here at Jacksonville University,” said JU President Tim Cost. “We believe deeply in this. Just as our own Healthy Campus program seeks to build upon the health and wellness of our campus community, partnering with The District fulfills one of our key pillars of using our robust resources to help improve the quality of life for Jacksonville area residents and promote a culture of healthy behavior, service, safety and respect.”

Dr. Heather Hausenblas, Associate Dean of the School of Applied Health Sciences in the Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences

Dr. Heather Hausenblas of Jacksonville University’s BRCHS, co-principal investigator on the research project with Dr. Christine Sapienza, Dean of the BRCHS, said she became familiar with the vision of The District’s co-founders and believes it is “a revolutionary concept that we want to be a part of and help measure its impact on residents.”

“We are able to capture community stories as well as statistics based on scientific research that seek to validate the health impacts of The District’s offerings, and show how those offerings improve the physical, mental, emotional and social health of residents. It is an exciting and entirely new endeavor for us,” she said.

“When Peter Rummell and Michael Munz reviewed their visionary concept with Jacksonville University, we knew immediately that our BRCHS team could provide the scientific design necessary to examine and show the unique features of The District for those living within its healthy environment. Our intent is to verify outcomes with data rather than lean on anecdote, myth or hype” added Dr. Sapienza. “The integration of JU as an academic partner with The District is an innovative step that represents the beginning of what will likely become one of the most deeply evaluated communities of its time.”

The BRCHS team will conduct the research in phases using both quantitative and qualitative research approaches. Phase I will include developing the protocol for the study and outlining the types of research assessments to be used, which will include surveys, observations and objective measures. Implementation is anticipated to begin as The District comes to life and residents begin to move in.

Since becoming the winning respondents to the JEA’s RFP, Rummell and Munz have been working to gain the necessary development approvals for the unique project from the various regulatory agencies. This included development rights and approvals for the overall design, which have been approved by the City of Jacksonville’s Downtown Development Review Board. The project will begin closing procedures on the land with the JEA in the 4th quarter of 2017 and break ground beginning with the horizontal development—anticipated to begin in Q1 2018 with some vertical development coming on-line simultaneously with the 30-acres of horizontal development. Vertical development will include up to 1,170 residential units with a mixture of for-sale and for-rent, mixed-used retail, a hotel and office tower, as well as completion of the Southbank Riverwalk and a multi-acre public park connected to the Riverwalk lined with what Rummell calls “the coolest bars and restaurants along the St. Johns River anywhere in Northeast Florida.”