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Small Area Plan and Health Impact Assessment

What is a Small Area Plan?

bridge at sunrise
In 2006, the City of Duluth adopted a Comprehensive Plan to provide a vision for future land use decisions for the next 20 years. What was this vision? The plan advocated development consistent with "
Duluth's future as an urban wilderness, as a neighborly and safe place to live, and as a place of high-skilled, high-wage employment" ("2001 and beyond" Vision Statement).

The Small Area Plan offers a chance to look at an area of the city in more detail than the Comprehensive Plan could. Since the Comprehensive Plan was adopted, Small Area Plans have been conducted in various parts of Duluth, such as the Miller Hill Mall area; the UMD-St. Scholastica neighborhood; and more recently, Gary/New Duluth and Park Point. Next on the agenda? Lincoln Park.

Here's what the Lincoln Park SAP will look at:

  • History/background of the neighborhood
  • Past planning efforts
  • Current demographics and trends in employment and housing
  • Current land use and zoning
  • Transportation issues
  • Environmental characteristics and natural resources
  • Market analysis: office space, residential housing, and retail
  • Health! The SAP will be done in conjunction with a Health Impact Assessment.

What is a Health Impact Assessment?

  In January 2014, staff from the City of Duluth Planning and Business/Economic Development offices met with the Minnesota Department of Health to determine whether the Lincoln Park Small Area Plan (SAP) would benefit from a health impact assessment (HIA). HIA is a process used by organizations and community groups to provide decision-makers with information about how any policy, program or project may affect the health of people.

    How is “health” defined in this context? It includes economic, social, political, psychological, and environmental factors. By following the HIA process in connection with the SAP, a broad set of stakeholders—city agencies, community members, organizations, and developers—can explore ways the City can make its plans and policies better for the health of Lincoln Park residents. For instance, housing guidelines can take into account the ways drafty or damp houses can make residents sick, and transportation plans can be designed to increase access to nutritious food, health care, and parks. The HIA will look at how the SAP’s recommendations will affect people’s health and suggest ways to improve these recommendations for a healthier, more vibrant Lincoln Park!

    For more information about Health Impact Assessments, visit the HIA page at the Minnesota Department of Health or check out Human Impact Partners' FAQ.

The Lincoln Park Small Area Plan HIA is supported by a grant from the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts.The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

August 2014: Baseline Data

The Health Impact Assessment team has been collecting baseline data--that is, information and statistics on what we already know about health in Lincoln Park--specifically, the area the assessment is focusing on, from the Michigan/Superior split to 40th Ave. West, between Lower Michigan to 3rd St.  Here are some highlights:

  • The median age of people in the study area is 29.9 years old, according to the last census. Compare that to the median age in Minnesota, which is 37.4! Lincoln Park has a higher proportion of younger people--from small children to twentysomethings.
  • City-wide, 7% of people between ages 18-24 and another 7% of people 25 and older do not have a high school diploma. In the study area, that jumps to 20% of people between 18-24 and 18% of people 25 and older. Higher education levels are correlated with better health outcomes--in large part because of poverty. In the study area, 44% of adults 25 and older without a high school diploma live below the poverty level; only 7% of people with bachelor's degrees or more do.
  • 82% of people in the study area have health insurance coverage, private or public, compared to 92% city-wide.
  • 16.5% of people in the study area report that they always have fruit and vegetables in the house, compared to 47.7% city-wide.
  • Zip code 55806 has the third highest asthma-related emergency department visit rate of all zip codes in the city.  (55805 and 55802 are higher.)

What does this mean for our neighborhood? It means our challenge is to find ways to make education more accessible for our residents, bring healthy food, including fruit and vegetables, into the neighborhood, and clean up environmental factors such as air quality so we can all breathe easier. Challenge accepted!

The Small Area Plan-Health Impact Assessment Process


Screening is the process of determining whether the Health Impact Assessment is (a) doable and (b) helpful for the community.

Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder engagement is the process of getting people involved who have a stake in the neighborhood--whether as residents, business owners, employees, volunteers, or anything else. It is important to keep the community in the loop! This process will be ongoing throughout the HIA.

What's spring like for the SAP process? Here's the plan:

  • Kick off Small Area Plan process at May 3 Our Lincoln Park Neighborhood Celebration
  • Conduct neighborhood-specific and city-wide surveys
  • Assemble background data from Comprehensive Plan, previous studies, neighborhood plan surveys, focus groups, etc.


Scoping is a term for setting up the guidelines and goals for the HIA. What will its scope be? Which issues will it address? Who will be affected, and what are their concerns? This process will continue through September 2014.

On the SAP side, here's what will be going on during the summer:

  • Analyze research results conducted in May
  • Determine additional information/research needs
  • Determine development opportunities via future land use and zoning
  • Analyze internal and external connections for all forms of travel
  • Analyze current neighborhood sustainability and identify gaps
  • Hold first public meeting/open house: present data and analysis, get input from community members


Assessment has two steps: figuring out the baseline health of the people in the neighborhood--taking into account things such as healthy food access, air quality, and parks--and then looking at how future decisions about the neighborhood will affect the health of its residents. This process will continue through November 2014.
At the same time, here's what will be going on in SAP land:

  • Develop goals and strategies to address identified planning issues--the first round of recommendations.
  • Hold second public meeting/open house: present goals, strategies, and recommendations, then gain more public input


Recommendations for steps that can be taken to improve the health of people in Lincoln Park will be made.

Similarly, on the SAP side, here's how the year will wrap up:

  • Finalize plan recommendations and develop a schedule for implementing them


Reporting the findings of the HIA back to the stakeholders and the community is a crucial step--as is getting their feedback!

The findings of the SAP will need to be reported also around this time, to the Planning Commission.

Evaluation and Monitoring

Evaluation and monitoring of how the recommendations are implemented, and what sorts of effects they have, will be ongoing.

Timeline information for the Lincoln Park HIA provided by
Kelly Muellman
at the Minnesota Department of Health.

Explanations of timeline elements adapted from the Health Impact Project.

The Lincoln Park Small Area Plan HIA is supported by a grant from the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts.The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Small Area Plan/Health Impact Assessment meeting notes and agendas

Miss a meeting? Stay in the loop about what's happening with the SAP/HIA process here:

May 1, 2014 meeting agenda

May 1, 2014 meeting notes

June 25, 2014 meeting agenda

June 25, 2014 meeting notes

Working together to create a vibrant neighborhood!