UrbanPlan

Students learn about the urban development process at an UrbanPlan workshop at a Boston high school.
Students learn about the urban development process at an UrbanPlan workshop at a Boston high school.

UrbanPlan is an immersive, classroom-based curriculum designed to teach high school and university students about the interplay of market and nonmarket forces that drive urban development. Launched in 2003 in partnership with the Fisher School of Real Estate and Urban Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, UrbanPlan seeks to illuminate the complexities and negotiations that occur among community stakeholders, public officials, and private developers when development occurs.

Through a mock request-for-proposals process, students engage in role playing, economic analysis, and modeling to understand the critical leadership roles and responsibilities that must be assumed when neighborhoods undergo redevelopment. UrbanPlan offers educators a turnkey program that supports their existing economics or government curriculum while also sharing the real-world expertise and experience of ULI members who serve as volunteer facilitators and mentors. At the university level, the program is offered to graduate students in business, real estate, urban planning, design, and law.

UrbanPlan in the United Kingdom was officially launched in FY 2016. Here a ULI volunteer works with students at a high school in London.
UrbanPlan in the United Kingdom was officially launched in FY 2016. Here, a ULI volunteer works with students at a high school in London.

In FY 2016, UrbanPlan was taught in 32 high schools and 12 universities across the ULI Americas District Council Network, reaching more than 3,100 students. In addition, a version of UrbanPlan was launched in the United Kingdom, where it was taught in 24 schools and reached more than 500 students. Learn more about ULI United Kingdom’s UrbanPlan program in Priorities – Developing Excellence through Education. 

Over 670 ULI members volunteered with UrbanPlan programs through their district council, while 200 real estate and land use industry professionals in the United Kingdom volunteered in UrbanPlan U.K. workshops. In the Americas, UrbanPlan experienced growth in two markets: the program was offered at Old Dominion University (ODU) in Norfolk, Virginia, where ULI Virginia volunteers facilitated workshops in the real estate course of Professor Andy Hansz, the Robert M. Stanton chair of real estate in ODU’s Strome College of Business. In addition, a Women’s Leadership Initiative chapter at ULI Houston sponsored a weeklong version of UrbanPlan during a summer economics program at Incarnate Word Academy, a private all-girls high school in downtown Houston.

An UrbanPlan workshop for public officials help them understand the development process.
An UrbanPlan workshop for public officials helps them understand the development process.

UrbanPlan for Public Officials Pilot Workshop

One of the most significant accomplishments for the UrbanPlan program in FY 2016 was the development of a workshop for public officials. A collaboration among UrbanPlan, ULI Washington, and the Rose Center for Public Leadership, the workshop engaged elected and appointed officials on the key insights into the development process, the complexities of project finance, public/private partnerships, and other tools for collaboration with the private sector.

While both elected and appointed officials work closely with real estate and land use professionals to shape their communities, few have had the opportunity to step into their shoes. The UrbanPlan workshop for public officials gives public sector leaders an opportunity to cultivate a deeper understanding of the risks and opportunities of development from a private sector perspective. The workshop also facilitates conversations between volunteers—ULI members working in the private sector—and participants.

Thirty-four public officials participated in the three pilot workshops, one of which was held at the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference in March. The pilot was an eye-opening experience for participants, including Patrick Wojahn, the mayor of College Park, Maryland. “The UrbanPlan for Public Officials Workshop was an opportunity to gain different perspectives on the development process,” he said. “It was particularly useful to get a view on the fiscal constraints that developers face when trying to accommodate communities. It’s helpful to understand the balance between getting what you can get from a developer, but not pushing them too hard, so everyone wins.  The Urban Land Institute gave me the opportunity to discover how to accomplish that.”

The pilot workshops were so well received that an official program for public officials was launched at the 2016 ULI Fall Meeting in Dallas and will soon be offered through the ULI Americas District Council Network, starting with ULI Boston.

Learn more about ULI UrbanPlan and UrbanPlan U.K.