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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Gil Peñalosa, Internationally Renowned Liveable Community Design Guru, Comes To Brownsville

Brownsville, TX, August 16, 2012—Gil Peñalosa, executive director of the Canadian non‐profit 8‐80 Cities, and an internationally renowned city advisor and active public spaces advocate will be speaking to the Brownsville community August 28th and 30th. Part of the Building a Vibrant Brownsville lecture series, Mr. Peñalosa will be sharing his expertise and talking about building cities that allow for mobility of people of all ages and economic backgrounds, in order to create vibrant, healthy, and economically sustainable communities.

“Creating cities that encourage citizen mobility has a profound impact on economic development. The advantages work two‐fold: entrepreneurs, retail and restaurateurs can always benefit from more foot traffic and the connectivity of city centers, while employers want a more active work force that engages in healthier lifestyle choices that lead to greater productivity. The groundwork needs to be established at the community level if we want to ensure sustainability,” said Irv Downing, Vice President for Economic Development and Community Services at UTB.

As the former Parks and Recreation Commissioner for the City of Bogotá, Colombia, Mr. Peñalosa successfully led the development of over 200 parks and the city’s popular ciclovías— a weekly Sunday event where streets are closed for exclusive use of pedestrians and cyclists. Popular with not just Colombians, over a million users each week, ciclovías are now found all over the world, including parts of Europe, South America, New Zealand and North America. In addition to his work with 8‐80 Cities, Mr. Peñalosa also works as Senior Consultant for the Danish firm Gehl Architects, and serves on the Board of Directors of City Parks Alliance, USA, and as Senior Advisor to America Walks, StreetFilms in NYC, ParticipACTION Canada and Casas GEO in Mexico. As director of 8‐80 Cities, Mr. Peñalosa helps cities understand and design the infrastructure, open spaces and programming needed to better integrate driving, cycling and walking for people ages 8‐80, and in a manner that fosters community interaction.

“Brownsville is a city where the majority of the population is either very young or older. We cannot continue building under the assumption that everybody has access to a car or is very fit and can easily move around. If we do, then we are ignoring a very large segment of our population, and they deserve better,” said Commissioner Rose Gowen, M.D.

The Building a Vibrant Brownsville lecture series features guest speakers with experience in creating vibrant and liveable communities, and then implements their ideas in Brownsville. The first speaker of the series, Jason Roberts of the Better Block organization, led to the monthly transformation of Market Square into a walkable, bikeable, vibrant public space. Mr. Roberts, familiar with Mr. Peñalosa’s work, incorporated the philosophy of creating spaces for 8 to 80 year olds into his Better Block project.

“Gil Penalosa is a personal hero of mine, and his initiatives to help revitalize Bogota are a model for much of the work that we now carry out through Better Block projects around the country,” said Mr. Roberts. As part of the takeaway from Mr. Peñalosa’s visit, plans are currently underway for Brownsville’s version of a ciclovía—a CicloBía to be held in October.

Mr. Peñalosa, the third speaker of the series, will give a special presentation for the Spanish‐speaking community on August 28th at the Camille Playhouse at 5:30 p.m. His keynote address (English) is scheduled for August 30th at the Science Engineering and Technology Building on the UTB and TSC campus at 7:00 p.m. Sponsored by Valley Baptist Medical Center in Brownsville, SpawGlass, BCIC, the City of Brownsville, Valley Regional Medical Center, UTB and TSC, both lectures are free and open to the general public.

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