ULI’s District Council Network Continues to Make Meaningful Impacts Locally

Even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, ULI district councils continued to make a meaningful difference in their local communities during fiscal year 2020 by sharing knowledge and expertise with communities and mentoring the next generation of real estate professionals.

In August 2019, ULI Charlotte hosted the Hip Hop Architecture Camp for middle-school and high-school students. The camp, led by graduate students in architecture, introduced underrepresented youths to architecture, urban planning, creative placemaking, and economic development through hip-hop culture and music. During the week, students created three-dimensional digital and physical models, visited historic sites—and recorded a song and music video to summarize their designs.

In November, ULI Arizona hosted the ULI 2D Community Mural Project, an effort to create additional artwork in an already artistic Mesa neighborhood, connecting the community and sharing the stories and histories of individuals in the area through art. The event encouraged artists and the Guerrero Park neighborhood to catalyze revitalization through vibrant murals. Members of ULI Arizona worked with the city of Mesa to design a site plan that maximizes the visibility of the murals and to support adoption of an ordinance to permit mural painting in specific parts of the city. As Heidi Kimball, chair of ULI Arizona, reported, “This project was spearheaded by ULI Arizona and raised our visibility as community partners who care about the future of our cities.”

December saw ULI St. Louis conduct its Public Leadership Institute workshop. Inspired by ULI Boston’s presentation at the 2019 Staff Summit, this two-day workshop was designed to help elected officials gain a better understanding of land use and leadership by focusing on integrated problem solving, public/private collaboration, and peer-to-peer learning. The first day incorporated an UrbanPlan for Public Officials workshop, and the second featured interactive panels and roundtable discussions on topics such as leadership and visioning, a market reality check, incentives, density and design, and strengthening communities through economic development. ULI St. Louis partnered with FOCUS St. Louis, a local civic leadership organization, to deliver the workshop.

The devastating impact of the February 2019 Sonoma County winter storms and flooding in the aftermath of a destructive fire season are often overlooked. At its peak, the water level of the Russian River reached 45 feet (14 m), well above the 32-foot (9.8 m) flood level, leading to widespread damage, electricity blackouts, mudslides, fallen trees, and road closures. In response to this tragedy, ULI San Francisco’s Young Leaders Group (YLG) leveraged one of its annual events, Venture in the Vineyards, to raise over $22,000 to provide emergency housing assistance and financial aid to low-income families affected by the Sonoma County wine country floods. YLG committed to donating all the event’s net proceeds to the Sonoma Community Action Partnership (CAP) disaster relief fund to assist with housing and other essential living needs for flood victims. Moreover, the event subcommittee leveraged this donation to raise over $10,000 from the local land use and real estate business community, and received a matching donation from Kaiser Permanente to contribute to the total.

Even when COVID-19 forced the Institute to work remotely, the district councils still delivered powerful and high-impact content. In May, ULI Triangle hosted a two-part series, “Real Estate and Racial Equity.” The program, facilitated by the Racial Equity Institute (REI) out of Greensboro, North Carolina, introduced participants to the foundations of racial inequality and systemic racism in the United States and how they affect the real estate, development, and land use planning industries. The over 300 registrants participating in the program learned the basic impacts of historical policies and practices that have led to inequitable outcomes based on race. Participants included ULI members, public officials, and community leaders throughout North Carolina and beyond. Said one participant regarding the program, “I learned about the structural and systemic discriminatory policies and their long-term social and economic impact on African Americans’ education return on investment and not being able to ‘zip code’ one’s way out of these structural policies; fair housing issues; and the regulatory impact from zoning, mortgage lending, and development policies contributing to racial misalignment and equity suppression.”

Give to the Annual Fund so that the District Councils can continue their impactful work. ULI members are also encouraged to support District Councils by volunteering, serving in leadership roles, or sharing their views and expertise. Those interested in contributing should find  submit an inquiry on Navigator.”

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