News from the Top: The Coexistence of Nature and Cities: How Trees can Transform Our Urban Environments

April 23, 2019

Tami Door, President and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership serves as Chair of the International Downtown Association’s (IDA) Board of Directors. Tami offers her expertise in city building to members of IDA in her monthly News from the Top column.

Earlier this week, we celebrated Earth Day and as we talk about the importance of creating greener, more sustainable cities, we mustn’t forget about or underestimate the power that trees have to enhance—and even transform—our cities.

The benefits of a healthy urban forest are endless, from our health and wellbeing to the vibrancy of our downtown. Trees are not just beautiful: they are essential to the livelihood of communities. Trees provide increased property value, higher spending from consumers, higher income streams for businesses, reduced time on the market for real estate listings, and return on investment in terms of ecological and economic benefits.

Softening the hardscape through greening turn our streets into more welcoming places to frequent. Making sure our public spaces and parks are safe is also important to creating a more social and recreational downtown. The presence of trees has even been proven to reduce both violent and petty crime.

Cities can be transformed into green oases through the presence of mature trees and a robust tree canopy. Several global cities are already restoring nature, instead of the city, as the dominant context. Melbourne, Australia, for instance, boosts being a city within a forest. Copenhagen, Denmark has used its St. Kjeld neighborhood as a test site for green infrastructure and is aiming to turn 20% of neighborhood’s paved surfaces into green areas. Here in Denver, we launched the Urban Forest Initiative, aimed at increasing our urban canopy from 4% to 10%.

Nature and cities do not have to be mutually exclusive; they can and should coexist.