It’s often difficult to find mutually beneficial relationships, but that’s exactly what has evolved between the Heights and Houston’s annual, block party-style initiative promoting healthy living and community bonds.
Back for its sixth installment, the City of Houston’s Cigna Sunday Streets will kick off its Spring 2019 routes March 24 in the Heights on 19th Street from noon-4 p.m. The free event will include the Heights for the fifth year in a row.
“We’re thrilled to start another season as the lead sponsor of Cigna Sunday Streets, which is all about getting out, getting active, getting healthy and getting connected to Houston’s amazing neighborhoods,” said Jim Hickey, president of Cigna’s South Texas market. “We’re considering a number of ways to enhance Cigna’s booth, and we look forward to introducing a number of surprises this year.”
Part bike tour, part walking tour, part block party, Cigna Sunday Streets was a partnership created in 2014 between the insurance company and the city to promote outdoor activities and health with friendly doses of community.
Paula McHam, Cigna’s director of community engagement, said that is already evident in the Heights.
“It’s such a great community and so easily walkable, so we always get good attendance,” she said. “The area is such an exciting draw, and if it’s a good day people will come out and enjoy the fresh air. We’ve had some of our biggest events in the Heights.”
Susan Christian, the special events director in Mayor Sylvester Turner’s office, said the burgeoning Heights community exudes hospitality and the importance of neighborly relationships, creating the perfect atmosphere for Cigna Sunday Streets. Whether on 19th, 6th or 11th streets, it’s the same.
“When you walk into a store or restaurant, and you’re met with so much warmth and personality, that’s a place you like to go back and frequent,” she said.
So, as has been the case every year since 2017, the party is along West 19th Street, which will be closed between North Shepherd Drive and Yale Street. In 2015 and 2016, Cigna Sunday Streets made its Heights stop on White Oak Drive.
Sunday Streets helps bring even more notoriety to Heights-area amenities through activities such as walking, running and cycling, and helps the area’s increasing number of retailers by creating business on a typically slow day. Conversely, McHam said the Heights community reciprocates by getting the message behind Sunday Streets out to its neighbors.
“They’re a big help in making sure everybody’s on board and getting the word out,” she said. “These things can’t be successful if the community isn’t supportive.”
19th Street and the Heights have become some of Cigna Sunday Streets’ most popular locations. With its diverse mix of businesses, people, culture and community leaders, the Heights has drawn up to 15,000 attendees per year.
“They simply embrace neighborhood events and continue to encourage that same kind of neighborhood spirit,” Christian said.
Cigna Sunday Streets is modeled on events from around the world, including Ciclovía in Bogotá, Colombia, and the Paris Plage in France. Sunday Streets originated in Bogotá as a day of free, healthy activities that promote community in public streets.
“(The city) is so big, we don’t often venture out of our bubbles into different areas, just because it’s hard,” Urban Float co-owner Ben Lancaster said prior to the 2018 event. “So if you have an enjoyable day to just walk around and do all these different things, it’s really cool.”
From shops such as Urban Soles, Bliss on 19th and Jubilee to Harold’s Restaurant & Tap Room and The Heights Theater along the neighborhood’s main street, those making their way along the route will receive a firsthand glimpse of an area already in sync with the sentiment behind Sunday Streets.
“What’s beautiful about 19th Street is that they have a strong network of business owners that really get into the event,” Christian said. “They have establishments that are conducive to this style of event. It’s something fun the family can go over and do. It’s a perfect Sunday afternoon outing.”
For more information on this year’s Cigna Sunday Streets Houston, visit houstontx.gov/specialevents/sundaystreets.html