/ Global

Honoring Urban Visionaries through the J.C. Nichols Prize

Efforts by ULI members to engage with a broad group of decision-makers who influence urban development were evident in the selection of transportation entrepreneur Robin Chase as the 2017 recipient of the Institute’s J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development.

The prize, which is ULI’s highest honor, recognizes a person or a person representing an institution, whose work demonstrates a commitment to the creation of communities that reflect the highest standards of design and development. Chase rose to prominence in the early 2000s as the cofounder and chief executive officer of Zipcar, the world’s largest car-sharing company. She was the first Nichols Prize laureate whose career has not directly involved real estate practices or policy making.  

The effects and implications of Zipcar rippled quickly through city planning departments, the development industry, and academia, changing long-held assumptions about the amount of parking necessary to satisfy city residents. Chase’s car-sharing idea also demonstrated that sharing is welcomed by the mainstream of people, setting the stage for the rise of the sharing economy.

Zipcar led the car-sharing movement that has changed how people experience cities.

  • “Being flexible with space — building in multipurposing — allows uniquenesses to emerge that distinguish places from each otherThat should be a goal for developers, to ensure that they are leaving evolvable space for the people in a community, now and in the future, to localize and make it their own.” 

    – 2017 ULI J.C. Nichols Laureate Robin Chase
  • “With Zipcar, Robin produced something we all use, but it’s not something we knew we needed until it was introduced to us. Her passion is about innovation, staying ahead of the game, and thinking about things that others are not. In today’s world, we all need that.”

    – 2017 ULI J.C. Nichols Prize Jury Chairman Mark W. Johnson

The selection of Chase demonstrated a recognition of the impact that visionaries outside the real estate industry are having on the built environment, noted former ULI Global Chairman and Nichols Prize Jury Member Marilyn J. Taylor. “Robin’s work has led us to think differently about all the space that has been given over to vehicle movement in our cities, to celebrate the efficient transportation networks that we have and add to them in a very light-impact way,” said Taylor, professor of architecture and urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design in Philadelphia. “She is crystal clear about why vehicles and spaces and every aspect of our life that we can share should be shared, because when we are out and about, we inevitably interact with people who think differently than we do, and that is the way we build community cohesion.”  

“Being flexible with space—building in multipurposing—allows uniquenesses to emerge that distinguish places from each other,” Chase said. “That should be a goal for developers, to ensure that they are leaving evolvable space for the people in a community, now and in the future, to localize and make it their own.” 

Leading ULI Member Wayne Nichols is a member of the Nichols family, which endowed the ULI J.C. Nichols Prize.

In addition to Taylor, other 2017 Nichols Prize Jury members were Jury Chairman Mark W. Johnson, president of Civitas in Denver; Sir Stuart Lipton, a Nichols Prize laureate, ULI Trustee, and founder of Lipton Rogers Developments LLP in London; Dana Crawford, chairman, Urban Neighborhoods Inc., Denver; and Ellen Dunham Jones, professor, School of Architecture, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta. 

Use Navigator to apply to serve on the J.C. Nichols Prize jury.

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