The value in “Views of Green”

Creating a stronger, healthier and more cohesive Durham
Mar. 02, 2013 @ 02:42 PM

Did you ever wonder why a property with mature trees or a park view is generally more valuable than a property without these features?

People intuitively gravitate to these properties because they feel healthier and happier. Access to green space has been shown to lower heart rates and reduce stress. It has even been connected to reduced rates of asthma, attention deficit disorder and skin cancer.

Green spaces have a real economic impact as well. Keep America Beautiful reports that the value of properties in proximity to trees or within a quarter mile of a park can be as much as 10 percent higher. Treescaped business districts also report higher revenue than treeless areas because consumers prefer visiting green retail and business locations. “Views of green” have even been shown to improve employee satisfaction and productivity for businesses.

Of Keep Durham Beautiful’s three primary focus areas, beautification and “community greening” encompasses the most variety. Planting trees and flowers enhances well-being and makes economic sense, as does establishing community gardens and fostering urban agriculture. That’s why a new project in downtown Durham has caught my attention.

In recent weeks, I have curiously watched an unkempt and littered lot along Mangum Street miraculously sprout long rows of garden beds. I couldn’t resist stopping when I saw two young women erecting a wood pallet fence.

I learned that Laura Stephenson and Emily-Kate Hannapel leased eight vacant lots at 601 N. Mangum Street between Hunt and Broadway and named the space Sweet Beet City Farm. They wasted no time in recruiting more than 50 volunteers to remove litter and build gardens.

Taking part in a growing trend to bring agriculture closer to home, Emily-Kate and Laura envision a vibrant urban farm that provides nutritious fruits and vegetables for its surrounding neighbors. They plan to foster a place where people can gather to learn from each other, and create new life for these formerly vacant lots.

Green space and trees can also reduce crime and increase property values. The reclamation and greening of vacant lots can increase adjacent property values by as much as 30 percent. Beautification projects that provide volunteer opportunities also serve to bring neighbors together, building pride, cohesion and connection, creating a safer community. In fact, public housing areas with trees and vegetation have shown up to a 50 percent reduction in both violent crimes and property crimes.

Green space and trees also offer cost savings for taxpayers. Trees reduce water management costs by reducing soil erosion and decreasing stormwater runoff, and create much needed cooling shade in our southern climate. Street trees in a Minneapolis study were shown to save $6.8 million annually in energy costs, and $9.1 million in stormwater treatment.

On March 22, Durham will celebrate national Arbor Day and 30 years as “Tree City USA” with a tree planting and tree seedling giveaway. A grant through the office of Economic and Workforce Development and a donation from BP Family Fare will facilitate the landscaping and tree planting. Efforts  like these create a stronger, healthier and more cohesive community with real dollars-and-cents benefits.

Tania Dautlick is executive director of Keep Durham Beautiful, a non-profit affiliate of Keep America Beautiful that engages and inspires individuals to take greater responsibility for their community environment. Be sure to like us at or follow us at