Advisory Services

ULI’s Advisory Services Program delivers the multidisciplinary expertise of the Institute’s senior membership to cities that are facing complex land use challenges. Over an intensive, weeklong engagement, Advisory Services panels work closely with local leaders to unlock the development potential of urban land in their communities. The role of the panels is to offer creative solutions for strategic yet underused sites while considering the larger goals of economic growth and competitiveness, rebuilding with resilience after natural disasters, revitalizing distressed downtowns and neighborhoods, securing long-term viability of urban infrastructure, and preserving housing diversity.

ULI members, whose service on panels is voluntary, often cite the Advisory Services Program as among the most rewarding experiences of their careers. Hundreds of stakeholders within a city—from top officials to local business owners and neighborhood organizers—are interviewed as part of the panel’s week-long research process. When a panel presents its recommendations, it is considered a major event with local news media coverage and members of the public eager to hear ULI’s advice for their city.

ULI Global Trustees Philip Payne and Dionne Nelson recommended changes to Dallas's affordable housing policy along with fellow panelist G. Kent Collins.
ULI Global Trustees Philip Payne and Dionne Nelson, shown with fellow panelist G. Kent Collins, recommended changes to Dallas’s affordable housing policy.

The Advisory Services Program continued its tradition of impact and member engagement in FY 2016 with more than 110 members serving on 14 panels throughout the year. The panels, delivered in 13 American cities and one city in China, focused on the following themes:

The Innovation Economy and Talent Retention

The Advisory Services panel recommended Foshan to preserve its unique Lingnan culture and architecture for establishing an authentic sense of place.
An Advisory Services panel recommended that Foshan preserve its unique Lingnan culture and architecture for establishing an authentic sense of place and innovation-based economy.

Cities around the world want to cultivate knowledge-based industries to compete in the global economy, which increasingly favors ideas and innovation over the mass production of goods. They also want to be vibrant, interesting places to attract and retain talent. The city of Foshan, China, is no exception.

At the request of municipal leaders and private developer Shui On Land, an Advisory Services panel analyzed how Foshan—a manufacturing hub of household appliances—could move its economy up the value chain. The panel recommended partnerships with the private sector to establish a world-class educational system and a center for entrepreneurship as the building blocks for a new, innovation-based economy. The panel also urged Foshan to tap into its unique cultural assets and encourage more mixed-use development in its urban core to establish authenticity and energy—qualities that could appeal to educated millennials.

Members of the Advisory Services panel in Foshan.
Members of the Advisory Services panel in Foshan.

Neighborhood Revitalization and University Outreach

East Liberty, a traditionally working-class neighborhood in Pittsburgh, has experienced a surge in public and private investment in recent years with new retail and housing, but adjacent neighborhoods have not shared in this prosperity. Several East End communities in Pittsburgh continue to struggle with poverty, crime, and disinvestment. An Advisory Services panel recommended property tax protection measures to prevent each neighborhood’s extinction in addition to tailored approaches for increasing homeownership and attracting investment.

Howard University, a historically black university in Washington, D.C., has always thrived in an urban environment and is known for its strong ties to the community. Yet its East Campus, once home to a divinity school, is now largely undeveloped land with a few campus buildings in need of rehabilitation. It has yet to be repurposed in a way that supports the university’s mission and academic programs, or that strengthens connections to adjacent neighborhoods. An Advisory Services panel recommended rehabilitating existing structures for academic purposes; enlivening the site with a mix of housing for students, faculty, and seniors; and preserving open space for public use. The panel also emphasized the importance of engaging local residents when devising a plan for the site.

Urban Redevelopment and Placemaking

An Advisory Services panel was asked to evaluate the redevelopment potential of Butler Place, a public housing development in Forth Worth, Texas. Photo courtesy of Fort Worth Housing Solutions.
An Advisory Services panel was asked to evaluate the redevelopment potential of Butler Place, a public housing development in Forth Worth, Texas. Photo courtesy of Fort Worth Housing Solutions.

Several panels focused on helping cities craft a new vision for areas in need of serious redevelopment or simply a greater sense of place. An Advisory Services panel in Fort Worth, Texas, examined redevelopment plans for Butler Place, an aging public housing complex, and the development potential of land surrounding it. Panelists concluded that future development should include mixed-income housing, opportunities for current residents to remain, and stronger connections to downtown Fort Worth and other high-opportunity areas.

While the Charlotte, North Carolina, community of South Park has not experienced decline, its land use patterns have not kept up with a demand for urban and walkable neighborhoods. An Advisory Services panel was engaged by civic and business leaders of this mall-anchored suburb to offer ideas on transforming it from a collection of single-use developments into an actual place, greater than the sum of its parts.

In partnership with the World Bank and the National Treasury of South Africa, an Advisory Services panel worked with officials in Port Elizabeth to define a clear vision and strengthen opportunities for commercial and residential development in the central business district and along the waterfront of Nelson Mandela Bay while balancing tourism and historic preservation needs. Bellevue, Washington, sought a panel’s insights on introducing placemaking, density, and pedestrian-oriented elements to Wilburton, a highly successful but automobile-dominated commercial and industrial district. And in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Largo, Maryland, city leaders sought a panel’s input on stimulating greater transit-oriented investment in vacant and underdeveloped land near the Largo Town Center, the terminus of two Metro rail lines.

Port Elizabeth, South Africa, the site of an Advisory Services panel.
Port Elizabeth, South Africa, which sits along Nelson Mandela Bay. An Advisory Services panel, in partnership with the World Bank, offered strategic advice on developing a waterfront economy.

Climate Resilience and Adaption

The Advisory Services Program partnered with the ULI Center for Sustainability to deliver panels in Duluth, Minnesota; St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana; and Miami, Florida—three geographically distinct cities that experience frequent urban flooding and stormwater management problems resulting from severe thunderstorms, sea-level rise, and other impacts from climate change. Learn more about these panels in Accomplishments – ULI Center for Sustainability.

Workforce Housing Policy

The city of Dallas tasked an Advisory Services panel with no small feat: a sweeping overhaul of its affordable housing policy. A panel composed of experts in affordable housing development, policy, and finance recommended an incentive-based inclusionary zoning program as well as a dedicated fund for mixed-income housing development. Learn more about this panel’s work in the Accomplishments – Terwilliger Center for Housing

Learn more about the ULI Advisory Services Program

Other Highlights